In 1998, Washington became the first state to allow the use
of “super-Wills.” A super-Will
essentially allows a testator to change or “override” the provisions of
non-probate assets--like insurance policy beneficiaries, bank accounts that are
payable on death, pension beneficiaries or jointly held property with
survivorship. So let’s say Bob named
Francis as the sole beneficiary of his life insurance policy, but later,
executed a Will naming Larry as the sole beneficiary of his life insurance
policy. Under Washington’s super-Will
law, Bob’s Will would “trump” and Larry would take the proceeds of the
This law is subject to a few provisions. Subsequently-designated beneficiaries (those
named after a Will is executed) are
not affected by the provisions of an earlier “super-Will”. Only
those beneficiaries named before a
super-Will is executed can be over-ridden.
Additionally, to effect control of a non-probate asset upon
the death of a testator with a super-Will, a personal representative must give
notice to the people involved—like the financial institutions holding non-probate
assets, the non-probate beneficiaries, and the testamentary beneficiaries. Absent such notice, the financial institution
holding the non-probate asset may rely conclusively on the form of the
non-probate asset and its beneficiary designation.
But let’s say a non-probate beneficiary receives a
non-probate asset to which he is not entitled?
What happens then? The
testamentary beneficiary (the beneficiary named in the super-Will) or the
personal representative may petition the court for control of the asset. However this petition has a time limit. It must be brought within the earlier of 1)
six months after admission of the Will to probate, or 2) one year after the
If a financial institution holding a non-probate asset is
aware of a dispute contesting the non-probate funds, the financial institution
may hold the non-probate asset until it receives an agreed consent of all
non-probate and testamentary beneficiaries.
The financial institution may also require a bond from the person to
whom it makes transfer of the non-probate asset in twice the amount of the