Understanding the Washington probate process

| Jun 14, 2021 | Firm News |

While many people imagine probate as a costly, lengthy process, Washington state attempts to simplify this endeavor for a deceased person’s survivors. For example, not every asset requires probate, which is the court supervision of asset distribution after death.

Review these facts about probate in Washington state to inform smart estate planning choices.

Non-probate assets

Many common assets do not pass through probate in Washington. Examples include:

  • Property you transfer to the ownership of a revocable living trusts
  • Assets for which you named a beneficiary, such as pensions, life insurance proceeds, payable on death bank accounts and retirement accounts
  • Assets you own with your domestic partner or spouse under a community property agreement
  • Assets you own in joint tenancy with another person

In addition, Washington currently only requires probate when the total value of probate assets exceeds $100,000.

The probate process

When you create a will, you name a trusted person as an executor to manage your affairs after you die. The executor starts probate by filing a petition in the county where you lived at the end of your life. The court will determine the validity of the will and issue a document called letters testamentary. This court order gives the executor permission to act on behalf of your estate. He or she must:

  • Pay taxes and debts
  • Inventory and value estate property
  • Notify creditors
  • Submit required court documents
  • Distribute assets according to your will

Probate usually takes no more than a year in the absence of challenges to the will or to the executor’s actions to settle the estate.