Washington State law does not require wills to go through probate—however, the state does require any will to be filed through the presiding court within 40 days of the death of the decedent.
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What Is a Probate?
Probate happens after someone dies, and is the legal process to determine the will and assets of the decedent. Whether or not there is a will (testate or intestate), probate will occur. Under probate, you must prove in court that the will is valid, identify and inventory the property of the deceased, appraise the value of the property, and pay any remaining debts and taxes for the deceased. Then, the remaining property under the will is distributed. Probates can get complicated, and it’s a good idea to understand how probates work.
Reasons to file for a Probate in Washington.
There are a few reasons to file for probate in Washington State. If there is any real property titled to the decedent’s name, or if their personal property (which includes cash or securities) exceeds an estimated value of $100,000.
What are the Probate Requirements in Washington?
While probate is not required in Washington State, Washington State law requires the last will and testament of the deceased to be promptly filed after their death. The will should be filed within 40 days of death, regardless of whether or not their estate is probated. You must file their will with the court in the county they resided in as of their time of death. You can probate without a will, though the process may become more complicated.
How is the Probate Process?
Depending on the formal probate process, the court may appoint someone to handle the administration of the estate. This person is the Personal Representative of the decedent’s will and estate, though in some cases the will may name the Representative. If no one is named, the court will appoint someone. This Personal Representative must assemble the assets of the decedent, pay all bills and taxes, and distribute the remaining assets.
How to Avoid Probate in Washington?
In Washington State, there are two main ways to avoid the formal probate process.
The first way is that the state allows any heirs of the estate to skip the probate process if it qualifies as a simple estate. That is, if the total value of assets is below $100,000, a formal probate process may be skipped to settle under a simplified process. While you do not need the court’s supervision for this process, anyone inheriting from the estate must prepare an affidavit to state they are entitled to the estate’s assets or property.
The second process that’s available in Washington State also requires meeting certain eligibility requirements. The Personal Representative can distribute the estate’s assets without the supervision of the probate court under this simplified process, called a “settlement without court intervention.” This is possible if the estate is solvent, the Personal Representative isn’t a creditor of the decedent, and the person requesting this process is the Personal Representative or the surviving spouse.
How Long Does Probate Take?
The time required to file probate can vary, as it depends on the size of the estate, the value of the assets, and any disparity between the creditors, beneficiaries, and stipulations of the will. If the estate is small with few assets and few beneficiaries, the simplified probate process may only take a few months. If the estate is complicated, if disputes arise, if the terms are contested, probate can take a year or more. The probate lawyer costs can often pale to the expenses you might incur by drawing out complex probate yourself.
How Can a Lawyer Help You With Your Probate?
Dealing with probate can be exhausting, time-consuming, costly, and overwhelming. It’s a good idea to hire a professional probate lawyer that can walk you through every step of the probate and ensure that you don’t miss anything crucial when meting out the will. Dealing with the complexities of settling an inheritance, whether the will is testate or intestate, can be nuanced and incredibly detailed. If you’re dealing with a large estate, it may be an especially good idea to hire a professional probate lawyer to ensure that the process goes smoothly. Even if you’ve already begun the probate process you can hire an attorney to help you oversee the will. A probate lawyer in Washington can help you understand the specifics of the law.
If you need to find a good probate lawyer, the team at Skyview Law has years of experience overseeing estates and family issues. Give us a call today!