Probate is a legal procedure for administering the estate of a person who has passed away, often referred to as the “decedent”. Probate involves collecting all the decedent’s assets; identifying heir and beneficiaries and sending notification of their interests; notifying and paying legitimate creditors; and distributing the decedent’s assets to the proper beneficiaries.
Probate proceedings are not necessary for all estates. Washington law provides a simplified procedure for the transfer of assets in a small estate when the value of such does not exceed $100,000.
In Washington State, however, if the decedent owned real property, the estate must be entered into probate to transfer the title. There are some exceptions, however. For example: If the decedent was married and had signed a Community Property Agreement then probate may not be necessary.
This depends on whether or not the decedent had a will or not. It also depends on how many heirs are still living, identifiable, and accessible. At a minimum, it will take at least 6 months to close probate.
If you have a will in your possession, you must produce the will to the named executor or the Superior Court within 30 days of the decedent death. If you have been named the executor/personal representative in the will, then you will need to petition the court for letters testamentary and non-intervention powers, essentially asking the Court for permission to administer the estate without having to ask the court to approve every action necessary to settle the estate.
If there is no will, then someone will need to petition the court for letters of administration and nonintervention powers in order to begin administering the estate. The terms personal representative and administrator are indicative of whether there was a will, but their functions are basically the same.
After someone has been granted the power to administer the estate by the court, they ave a duty to settle the estate and distribute the assets to the rightful persons in a timely and efficient manner.
They are responsible for: • Notifying heirs and creditors of the probate proceedings • Taking possession of, inventorying, and preserving the probate assets • Valuation of the assets by appraisal or otherwise • Collecting any estate income (rents, interest, dividends or debts owed to the decedent) • Representing the estate in any challenges to the will and any pending lawsuits • Timely filing any tax returns • Paying valid creditors’ claims • Transferring title to real and personal property to the proper recipients • Distributing the remaining assets to the designated beneficiaries or heirs • Filing a Declaration of Completion of Probate with the court to notify third parties that the administration of the estate is complete.
If your loved one has passed, and you are unsure of what you should do, please give my office a call at (425) 222-0555. We are happy to help.
Resource: “Probate: What you need to know about administering an estate.” A Washington State Bar Association consumer information guide created in cooperation with the WSBA Real Property, Probate & Trust Section