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Probate is the process is the the procedure for distributing assets to beneficiaries, paying claims of creditors and resolving any disputes with regards to inheritances or claims to property within a superior court in Washington State.  Having to deal with administering a probate case is never easy emotionally and by the sheer amount of work involved.   If the loved one who passed away, (“The Decedent”) had assets with a net worth of over $100,000 in Washington State then their estate must go through a process called probate.  The purpose of the probate process is for the personal representative or an administrator appointed by a court to notify all potential creditors of the decedent of the passing, for creditors to make any claims to assets of the probate estate, and allowing the personal representative or administrator to liquidate and transfer any assets to beneficiaries or creditors of the decedent.  The First step being able to transfer real estate in a probate is to open a probate case and get a personal representative or administrator appointed.  lawyer Richard Symmes was on the 1150AM KKNW talking about how to transfer real estate in a probate case and you can hear the full segment here:

(1) Open a Probate Case and Get a Personal Representative/Administrator Appointed to Transfer Real Estate.

A probate case in Washington State is opened in the Superior Court in the county where the decedent lived or owned property.  If the decedent had a Will, the will would name who the chosen personal representative is and typically also includes a backup person in case the first choice is unavailable.  The Will would be filed with the court along with a motion appointing the personal representative and an Oath of the Personal Representative.  If there is no Will or it cannot be found, then a motion seeking to appoint an administrator would need to be filed by a person petitioning to be the administrator of the decedent. If the family and heirs are in agreement on who the administrator should be and how assets should be distributed this process can go smoothly.  Otherwise, the probate can be adversarial and include litigation. Once the motion is approved, the personal representative or the administrator will receive “Letters Testamentary” or “Letters of Administration”. These letters will allow a personal representative or administrator to act on behalf of the decedent and begin to administer assets of the estate.

(2) Provide Notice to all Beneficiaries and Known Creditors. 

Once a personal representative or administrator is appointed with non-intervention powers they will need to provide notice to any known beneficiaries and known creditors of the decedents estate.  Creditors will file claims in the case to be paid and beneficiaries will be put on notice of a possible distribution or the right to object to such an appointment or the handling of the probate case.

(3) Liquidate Assets and Transfer Real Estate in a Probate.

The personal representative or administrator is considered a fiduciary, meaning that they are accountable to the beneficiaries for their actions.  The personal representative or administrator is tasked with making sure the assets of the decedent including real property, are bequeathed to the proper beneficiaries.  The personal representative or administrator will have the power to list for sale real estate if it needs to be liquidated or transfer the property to beneficiaries.  The personal representative has the right to choose who to hire as their lawyer or as a real estate broker or other professionals should they need assistance with the probate process or transferring real estate in a probate.  The transfer of real estate in a probate case is typically completed through a personal representative’s deed which transfer’s the property on behalf of the decedents estate to the proper beneficiaries or purchasing party. This personal representative’s deed is different than a typical warranty deed in which a title company would provide if the property is sold in a typical manner and goes through the title and escrow process.

(4) Pay Creditors and Close Out Probate

Once all real estate and other property has been liquidated and transferred to the proper beneficiaries and any creditors who have filed valid claims in the probate case have been compensated, the probate case will be ready to be closed out. Any funds or assets remaining prior to closing may then be distributed by the personal representative or administrator to the proper beneficiaries per the decedents will if applicable.

(5) Close the Probate

One all assets and real property has been liquidated or transferred and creditors have had their claims paid, the personal representative or administrator may close the probate case and file a Declaration of Completion of Probate or report of final accounting. This report should contain information on who was paid what, expenses of the estate, and any transfers made to beneficiaries.

If you live in Washington State and need assistance with probate or selling or transferring real estate while involved in an active probate, give Symmes Law Group a call at 206-682-7975 to get the counsel you need.

  • Richard Symmes

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