In Washington and Idaho, Wills are valid even if they're signed and witnessed in a hospital or even on a deathbed. However, although a Will is not invalid merely because it was signed in a hospital, it is not a good idea to sign your Will in a hospital or to wait until you’re on your deathbed.
Why? First, we can’t predict when we’ll be hospitalized or under what circumstances. You may go to the hospital unconscious and be physically unable to sign a Will. So, it is not wise to put off getting your Will made. Second, just because a Will signed in a hospital is valid, the Will may face additional scrutiny when it is filed with the probate court after the Will-signer’s death. That is, family members may be more likely to challenge the Will, fearing for example:
* that the Will was signed under duress;
* that the Will-signer was too sick to understand the document being signed;
* that the Will-signer was under the influence of medication; or
* that the Will-signer was mentally incapacitated.
These are all valid arguments. For a Will to be valid in both Washington and Idaho, the Will-signer must understand what they're signing, the nature and extent of their property, their nearest family members, and so forth. So, while it doesn’t directly matter that the Will was signed and witnessed in a hospital, indirectly it matters a great deal.
There was a recent case in Texas involving a Will signed on the signer’s deathbed in a hospital. Again, the Will was not directly invalid because it was signed in a hospital. However, in this case, indirectly it mattered a great deal. The jury in this case determined that the Will-signer did not have the correct state of mind legally to sign a valid Texas Will. The jury considered, for instance, that the Will he signed stated that he was not married, when he actually was married. The jury reasoned, how could the Will-signer have the right state of mind for signing a Will if he didn’t even know he was married?
What can you do to make sure that your Will doesn't get challenged? Don’t wait to sign a Will until you’re in the hospital. It is more likely that someone will challenge the Will if it is signed in a hospital. And, if the Will gets contested, it’s more likely that people will question whether or not you had the legally required state of mind to sign the Will.
We have assisted clients with our fair share of Wills signed in hospitals, after we've considered whether the client has the required mental ability to sign the Will. If the client has the legally required “testamentary capacity,” then we will agree to conduct the Will signing in a hospital. If this is done, we make sure to document from the witnesses that the client understand the contents of the Will, that the client understood the effect of signing the Will, and that the client otherwise possessed testamentary capacity.
If you have questions about preparing and signing Wills in Washington or Idaho, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to see how we can help.