Washington Probate Law

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“The assets and debts must be split and dispersed if the Washington resident dies. Probate is the judicial transfer of the personal and natural assets of the deceased who died, also called the decedent, to their beneficiaries and the heirs. A knowledgeable probate lawyer can bring peace of mind to your loved ones during this stressful moment.”

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Washington Probate Law

You may not know where to begin. If a decedent had a valid Will, the terms in the Will govern the transfer. If the deceased person did not leave a Will, the court considers their estate intestate.

In Washington, probate laws are crucial to know. Here’s what you should be aware of: Washington probate law.


What is Probate in the State of Washington?

Let’s first discuss the concept of probate and precisely what it entails. As stated, probate is a procedure overseen by the court to divide an estate following the death of a person.

It generally involves the appointment of an individual representative, making payments on debts, dividing and dispersing assets, and recording an inventory of the estate. The process can take around six months. If any problems occur, the process could be lengthy and expensive.


Who is Responsible to Transfer the Property?

The probate court must appoint an individual Personal Representative to oversee the deceased’s estate and ensure that the estate’s assets are transferred or distributed to the proper beneficiaries and the appropriate heirs. To appoint The Personal Representative, the Judge must decide if the deceased had a practical Will.


If the Decedent had a Will

The court will consider the Probate Petition, Original Will, and an authentic copy of a Death Certificate. If the Will:

  • Names the petitioner (the person who applied for probate) as the Personal Representative and
  • Is “self-proving” (most Wills are self-proving) is self-proving (most Wills are self-proving)
  • includes provisions to provide “non-intervention powers” and
  • The requirement to have bonds

The court will name the petitioner the Personal Representative and ask the Court Clerk to issue letters Testamentary to prove the appointment.


Without a Will

The court will consider the Probate Petition and a certified copy of the Death Certificate. If the petitioner:

The spouse who is surviving or a spouse registered as a state-registered domestic partner, someone whom the spouse or partner suggested the spouse or partner has suggested

  • The next of relatives in the following order:
  1. Child or children
  2. either mother or father;
  3. siblings or brothers;
  4. grandchildren;
  5. Nieces or nephews

If the petitioner desires appointment as personal representative of his estate.


Is Probate Required Under Washington Law?

Probate court procedures aren’t always required. Many assets are transferable to their owner without the need for probate. Examples of items that will not require probate include:

  • Assets that the deceased had assets that the deceased owner owned joint property that the dead person held in joint with other owners, and which transfer automatically to the survivor owner(s)
  • Assets are subject to the conditions of a standard property contract signed by the deceased and the household partner or spouse.
  • The beneficiary may receive assets not mentioned in the Will, like retirement or payable-on-death bank accounts.
  • life insurance profits or pension benefits due to the named beneficiary and
  • A living trust holds assets in trust and allows for revocable dissolution.

If you exclude the assets not subject to probate, you may not need probate if the remaining estate amount is insufficient. If not, probate is typically necessary. Even when an estate has to undergo the process of probate, Washington offers a simplified version of probate to a variety of estates.


Steps in the Washington Probate Law Process

You’ll probably need to follow these steps after starting probate in the Washington probate court.


Steps in the Washington Probate Law Process


Requesting Settlement without Court Intervention

Often, an individual representative (executor or administrator) may seek approval from the probate court for a more effortless probate procedure. This permits the personal representative to handle and end the estate without court oversight.

The personal representative can rent, sell, lend against, or transfer estate assets without court approval and without providing notice to beneficiaries, heirs, or creditors.

The court can approve the demand to grant “nonintervention administration” if the estate is solvent and

  • If there is an estate plan or executor, the person identified in the Will either makes the request,
  • If there is no will, the surviving spouse or a domestic partner can make the request. If the community property comprises the entire estate. The deceased person did not leave any children or grandchildren in another relationship or
  • The personal representative is not any creditor to the deceased, and the court has decided that it’s in the best interest of the creditors and beneficiaries.

In contrast, a wholly controlled administration needs court oversight when the administrator or executor makes decisions. As you can imagine, the process could be more complex and lengthy.


Handling Estate Assets during Probate

In general terms in broad terms, a personal representative’s job is to: personal representative’s task will be to

  • Take inventory of the estate of the deceased and secure them
  • pay taxes and other debts by the law and
  • The Will (or, in the absence of a will, the state’s law) distributes the remainder of the property as stipulated.

The person in charge must track how the estate’s assets are divided and managed. They should document receipts, bills, and bank statements. The personal representative must list the estate’s assets and their value.

Someone in Washington must ask to file the inventory in court. They use it for deposits, like compensation or refunds, and estate expenses. The personal representative has the power over all assets that go through probate.

Probate assets may include real estate, vehicles, banks, brokerage accounts, and personal possessions (for instance, furniture, jewelry, home furniture, art, or collections). The proceeds of life insurance that are payable to an estate (not an individual beneficiary) are probate assets, too.

The personal representative might require a second probate if the deceased owned real estate in a different state. It’s known as an additional probate.


Dealing With Estate Debts and Taxes

In Washington, executors can decide whether they want to publish (in the local newspaper) an official notification of the probate court proceedings. If the executor publishes the notice and tells all creditors, they will have four months to file demands. Their claims will be deemed barred if they don’t do this.

If they don’t, creditors have two years after the death occurred on which to make claims. An executor concerned about claims that may come later typically chooses to issue a notice.

If insufficient funds are left in an estate account to cover all outstanding debts, the personal representative will have to look to state law, which will prioritize claims. The top spot is the family allowance, followed by probate expenses, funeral costs, expenses for the illness that caused the death, and taxes. The list is endless; you’ll need to look it up if you need more cash to cover all the expenses. If this is the case, seek legal advice before paying anyone.

The personal representatives must also prepare the deceased’s final state and federal income tax taxes. These tax returns are typically due on April 15th, one year after the year preceding the death. You or the estate itself may have to file income tax returns.

You only need to file a U.S. estate tax return if the estate you’re paying taxes for is significant, specifically for deaths in 2023 that exceed $12.92 million. More than 99.9 percent of estates are not subject to federal estate taxes.

The state of Washington has an estate tax of its own and that of the Federal tax. From 2018 to 2022, the tax applies to estates worth over $2.193 million.


Distributing Property and Closing the Estate

The personal representative can only transfer estate assets to the inheritors after paying taxes and debts. The personal representative abides by the guidelines in the Will or, if there isn’t a will, they turn to the state’s “intestate succession” law to determine who will inherit.

An individual representative who has settled all outstanding debts filed required tax returns, and distributed the estate’s assets formally asks the court to end the case of probate. It’s easy when the personal representative has all beneficiaries and heirs in the family to agree on a Receipt or Waiver form. If they don’t, they will require the personal representatives to give notices and provide paperwork to keep.


Is There Ways To Avoid Probate?

The simple no-probate options are only for some. One of my responsibilities as a probate attorney is educating people about different strategies available to reduce or avoid the expense and time of probate. Creating a living trust is one of the most efficient methods to avoid probate. The faith will give its assets to a trustee. The trustee manages the help of the beneficiaries.

In living trusts, the person who created the trust also acts as the trustee throughout their lifetime. After their death, the successor trustee will manage the trust’s assets of the trust for the beneficiaries named. The trust does not have to dispose of its assets through probate.

The bank account is a payable-on-death one, a contract you have made with the bank you use. In the event of death, banks will pay money to the beneficiary. The administrator is the sole authority over this account and can increase it, remove money, or change the beneficiary throughout the life. After the death of the beneficiary, they receive an inheritance, with the added benefit of being able to keep probate out of the way.




What Is Probate Under Washington State Law?

After your death, the legally binding probate procedure handles your financial and personal estate.

If you die without having completed estate planning and have real property, your property must be subject to the probate process. The process of drafting trusts and wills and the family dynamics before your death will be considered in the disposition of the property after you pass away. Unfortunately, numerous misconceptions exist regarding when probate will be necessary and what it will mean.


What are some misconceptions of the probate process and the costs related to probate?

The thought of a probate process and the cost related to probate intimidates many people. But, you don’t necessarily need to spend much money on the process and can complete it quickly. You won’t need real estate probate if you have an estate worth less than $100,000 and no debt. A simple estate affidavit should suffice. It is something your attorney should be able to advise you on.


Does All Property Have To Go Through Probate?

Property includes money, real estate, furniture, jewelry, etc. Wills play a significant function in determining whether a property will be subject to probate. For instance, if you write a note stating that you want to give your niece a ring from your wedding, the call will not go through probate.

There are other ways to create non-probate assets with beneficiaries, like life insurance and joint banking accounts with the right of survivorship. Death deeds for transfer, as well as trusts, are two choices.


What Are My Options For Avoiding Probate?

Avoiding probate usually is not the most effective option, causing many people to worry. In certain circumstances, probate may be the best option to manage the property you own after your death.

In working with clients, I look over their family and financial situation and consider how they would like their assets distributed following their death. This will avoid conflict or future claims due to previous estate planning. Based on this information, we’ll develop an estate plan that goes into effect when they die.


Who is the first person affected by the probate procedure?

The first person affected by the probate procedure is the decedent or the person who passes away. Children, spouses, siblings, or any other person designated to receive assets would also be a part of the process. Creditors also participate.


Bottom Line.

As you can see, preparing an estate plan can be difficult. However, you don’t have to employ a probate lawyer when determining the most effective method to ensure the financial security of your heirs recommended due to the complexity of the court procedure. An experienced attorney knows Washington law and rules regarding probate and how they can be applied to your situation. Many people need more time to attend court, gather paperwork, and record it, but they need the knowledge and expertise to complete it correctly.

In addition to taking care of the probate process, we can ensure your estate plan outlines how you would like your estate dispersed. If you have all the legally binding documents, you complete your “estate planning” puzzle. You are now prepared to ensure that transferring your assets to beneficiaries is smooth and avoids unnecessary expenses.

Benefit from a complimentary consultation today.

Hedy Ghavidel

HEDY GHAVIDEL Managing Partner  Roseville Office  1-866-471-6981  info@attorneysre.com Bio...

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