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Probate in Washington State is a court supervised process by which the ownership of property of a deceased person (the decedent) is administered and determined.  Probate cases or opened in Superior Courts of each county across Washington State.  The purpose of probate proceedings is to allow the decedent’s Personal Representative, also known as an administrator if there is no will, to take possession, protect and preserve a decedent’s property; pay debts, claims and taxes necessary to settle the decedent’s affairs including distributing the decedent’s property to the rightful beneficiaries. Typically a decedent names who their personal representative will be in their Will and that person, typically with the assistance of an attorney, can open a probate case and become officially named as the personal representative. If there is no will, then an administrator may be appointed by the probate court. Below is a list of 10 things everybody should know about probate in Washington state.

(1)   If the Decedent’s estate does not contain real estate or is worth less than $100,000, then the decedents estate is not required to go through probate.

  1. If you need to transfer assets of the decedent, Washington state allows for a personal representative to complete a Small Estate Affidavit after 40 days have passed since the date of the decedents death.
  2. Personal representatives can mail or deliver the small estate affidavit to the holder of the property.
  3. It is a good idea to consider filing and publishing a Non-probate notice to creditors which can shorten the statute of limitations on any claim from two years to four months.
  4. Its also a requirement that if there is an original will in existence, that the original Will be filed with the Superior Court after 30 days after receiving notice of the death, even if there is no probate case.

(2)   The Washington State Department of Licensing has a form for the transfer of automobiles when no probate has been opened.

  1. It’s called an affidavit of Inheritance/litigation

(3)   If the Decedent owned real estate, then a probate case must be opened in order to sell the real estate and obtain testamentary letters or letters of administration to transfer the real property.  The court filing fee is $240 in King county and attorney fees can vary based on the size of the estate, potential creditors, number of beneficiaries and whether there is the potential that the probate process will be contested.

(4)   It is helpful if the Decedent had a last Will clearly naming a personal representative that allows for non-intervention powers.  This allows a personal representative to liquidate and distribute assets according to the last will without other family members possibly challenging the choices of the personal representative.

(5)   Documents that will be required in order to begin the probate process will be the filing of a petition for probate of Will, Solvency & Non intervention powers, death certificate, an Order for the court to sign appointing a personal representative or administrator, Oath of Personal Representative agreeing to take on the duties and testifying that they do not have a criminal record, a notice to creditors and a filing of the original last will that includes at least 2 witness signatures.  Other documents may also be required depending on the particular case.

(6)   All potential heirs, beneficiaries, legatees, and devisees must appear in the verified petition of probate and be notified if possible.  Listing only the beneficiaries under the Will is not sufficient.

(7)   If the Decedent was married, consider which assets are community property and which are separate.  It is presumed that an asset acquired during marriage is community but separate property may need to go through probate prior to spouses death if it is considered separate property.

(8)   Proceeds from retirement, bank account or life insurance account with transfer on death provisions can be administered without having to go through probate.

  1. Consider filing a transfer on Death Deed for your home to avoid the probate process or having your home involved in a probate case. A new law in Washington created in 2014 now allows for this type of deed to be recorded.  This deed can be filed anytime and can be revoked anytime prior to death.  This would allow for the immediate liquidation or transfer of the home by beneficiaries, without having to go through probate.

(9)   Assets placed in a revocable trust will also avoid the probate process as they have already been transferred to the trust which names specific beneficiaries.  There may be tax implications of transferring an asset so talk to your accountant before taking action.

(10)  As of 2021, estates that are worth $2.193 million will not be subject to Washington State taxes and estates worth less than $23.4 Million for a joint couple or $11.7 Million if single will not be subject to Federal Estate taxes.

If you live in Washington State and are looking for a Seattle probate attorney to assist with filing a new probate case, give Symmes Law Group a call at 206-682-7975 to start the probate process today.

  • Richard Symmes

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