Utilizing a Washington Will in Wisconsin: An Effective Probate Avoidance Tool in Marital Property Agreements

By Attorney Curtis A. Edwards

Wisconsin’s Marital Property Act empowers married individuals to customize the disposition of their assets during their life and after death through marital property agreements. One such provision that can significantly impact estate planning is the “Washington Will” provision, so named because of its origin and use in Washington State. This provision allows a married couple to seamlessly transfer assets upon death without the need for probate, simply by providing so in their marital property agreement.

Understanding the “Washington Will” Provision:

The “Washington Will” provision enables married couples to bypass the probate process upon the death of either spouse. By incorporating this provision into their marital property agreement, couples can direct the transfer of certain assets to specific beneficiaries, i.e. persons, trusts, or entities, without the need for a traditional last will and testament and without probate.

Avoiding Probate through Nontestamentary Disposition:

Traditionally, assets are distributed according to a will, which undergoes probate – a court-supervised process that can be time-consuming and costly. However, with a marital property agreement containing a “Washington Will” provision, designated assets are transferred directly to beneficiaries through nontestamentary disposition. This means that the assets pass to the intended recipients outside of the probate process, providing a more efficient and private transfer.

Simplifying Estate Administration:

The inclusion of the “Washington Will” provision simplifies estate administration for surviving spouses and their beneficiaries. Without the burden of probate, the transfer of assets designated in the agreement can occur swiftly, allowing beneficiaries to access their inheritance promptly. For example, the “Washington Will” provision can direct that all property transfer to the surviving spouse upon the first spouse’s death without probate.


The “Washington Will” provision within Wisconsin marital property agreements is an instrument that allows married couples to exercise greater control over the distribution of their assets upon death. By avoiding probate and providing a clear roadmap for asset transfer, this provision simplifies estate administration, and ensures that the wishes of each spouse are upheld.

If you have any questions or are interested in learning more about this topic, please contact Lin Law LLC at (920) 393-1190.

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