Do I Have to Apply for Probate?

Not all assets have to go through probate in the State of Washington, and many assets can avoid probate with good estate planning. However, it is advised to go through probate under certain circumstances and to reduce complications.

What is Probate?

How does probate work? Probate covers the entirety of the legal process that happens after an individual passes away. This can occur whether or not there’s a Will. If there is a will this is called “testate,” and no will is called “intestate.”

Probate includes:

  • Proving to the court that the will exists and is valid.
  • Identifying, inventorying, and tracking the deceased’s property.
  • Appraising the property.
  • Paying off their taxes and debts.
  • Distributing any remaining property as the Will lays out.

Probate also typically involves filing paperwork and making court appearances as the administrator of the estate, with the help of a professional lawyer.

Who pays probate attorney fees? The lawyer’s fees are traditionally paid from the estate, as well as any outstanding debts before the heir distribution.

Does Washington State Law Require Filing of the Will?

Yes. Washington State law requires that the Will of any deceased person be filed promptly after death. Whether or not the deceased’s estate is probated, their Will needs to be filed within 40 days of their passing.

Do I Need to Go Through Probate?

Washington State law doesn’t require probate—it is discretionary based on the person and the estate. Practically, only a small percentage of deaths in Washington ends up with a probate being filed. Probate is typically only filed when someone wants to accomplish a specific task, or if they need to exercise a claim that can’t be done without a probate.

  • Common reasons for probate:
  • Deceased was holding personal property exceeding $100,000.
  • Deceased had property titled in their name.
  • Someone contests the Will.
  • Someone contests the authority of the Will’s Representative.
  • Changing the Will’s Personal Representative.
  • Clearing any held joint property.

There are other specific reasons for filing a probate, and any time you wish to go through probate you should reach out to your attorney and consult them on whether or not it’s necessary.

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What Information Do I Need to Start Probate?

Opening a probate does require a little bit of investigative work. You need to locate the original Will, gather up the names and addresses of any and all beneficiaries of the Will (as well as the children and grandchildren of the deceased), and obtain enough copies of the death certificate.

What if I Can’t Find the Original Will?

If you cannot locate the original Will, the law will assume that the deceased had it destroyed. If you think it was lost and not destroyed, talk with your trusted probate lawyer. While it could be costly to prove the original was lost, it can help you avoid paying substantial taxes.

What if I Can’t Find a Will at All?

If the deceased pass without a Will, they have died intestate. All intestate estates still go through probate. Instead of having a Will that governs the distribution of assets, Washington State law will govern the proceedings in lieu of a representative. Under this observed law, the assets of the estate will be distributed according to the best guess of the legislature—or how the average person might distribute their assets.

You can probate without a will, but it is a different process. This law is rigid, and doesn’t take into account any concerns such as family dynamics, tax minimization, or any personal concerns an individual might have. Without a Will, the estate’s administrator might have to post bond and ask the court for permission without taking any actions on behalf of the estate.

Do I Need a Probate Attorney?

Yes. Speaking in practical terms, if anything above sounds overwhelming to you or if you need/want to apply for probate, you should hire a probate attorney. You may need a probate attorney to answer any questions you have about the Will, the deceased heirs, their assets and beneficiaries, and handling any disputes about the Will. You may also need an attorney to help administer the Will or give you help as the Personal Representative of the estate. Don’t probate a will without a lawyer.

How Long Does Probate Take?

Probate within Washington State can take between six months and a year, and is entirely dependent on individual cases and different case factors. It can take substantially longer if there is a court fight over the Will, or if any debts or assets are unusual and complicated. Without a dispute, probate is a matter of filling out the paperwork.

Probate in Washington State should always be handled by a trusted probate attorney. The process can be exhausting, overly intimate, complicated, and time-consuming, and a knowledgeable probate lawyer can streamline the process considerably during this difficult time. The cost of a probate lawyer is more than worth the benefits. If you’re in need of an incomparable probate attorney to help you with a deceased’s Will and estate, contact your trusted friends at Skyview Law today.

Jarrod Hays

Jarrod Hays

Jarrod Hays is the founder of Skyview Law. He is licensed to practice law in Washington State and the Western District of Washington State Federal Court.