Dealing with the assets, real estate and belongings of a love one who has recently passed away is never easy. If the loved one who passed (“The Decedent”) had assets 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 of the decedent 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 to liquidate and transfer any assets to beneficiaries 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 appointed. Attorney Richard Symmes was on the 1150 KKNW talking about this topic and you can hear the full segment here:
(1) Open a Probate and Get a Personal Representative Appointed in the Probate Case to Transfer Real Estate in a Probate.
A probate case is typically opened in the Superior Court in the county where the decedent lived. If the decedent had a Will, it would name who the chosen personal representative is. This 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, then a motion seeking to be appointed as the personal representative would need to be filed by a person petitioning to be the personal representative of the decedent. If the family and heirs are in agreement on who the personal representative should be and how assets should be distributed this process can go smoothly. Otherwise, aspects of a probate can be adversarial. Once the motion is approved the personal representative will received “Letters Testamentary” or “Letters of Administration”. These letters will allow a personal representative to act on behalf of the decedent.
(2) Provide Notice to all Beneficiaries and Known Creditors.
Once a personal representative is appointed with non-intervention powers they will need to provide notice to any known beneficiaries and known creditors of the decedents estate. This allows creditors to file claims in the case and beneficiaries to be put on notice of a possible distribution or the right to object to such an appointment or the handling of the probate matter.
(3) Liquidate Assets and Transfer Real Estate in a Probate.
The personal representative is considered a fiduciary, meaning that they are accountable to the beneficiaries for their actions. The personal representative is tasked with making sure the assets of the decedent including real estate, are bequeathed to the proper beneficiaries accordingly. The personal representative may have the power to list for sale a property if it needs to be liquidated or transfer the property to beneficiaries. The personal representative has the right to choose who to hire as legal counsel or as a real estate broker should they need assistance with the probate process or transferring real estate in a probate. The transfer of property is typically done 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 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 property has been liquidated and transferred to the proper beneficiaries and any creditors who have filed claims in the probate case have been paid, the probate case will be ready to close. Any funds or assets remaining prior to closing may then be distributed by the personal representative to the proper beneficiaries per the decedents will if applicable.
(5) Close the Probate
One all assets and real estate has been liquidated or transferred and creditors have been paid, the personal representative 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.