When a Washington resident passes away, their estate will in most cases go through the probate process. During probate, the validity of the decedent’s last will and testament is established, and then various estate-related expenses are paid. Assets are distributed to the decedent’s heirs in accordance with the terms of their will only after the probate process has been completed.
The estate’s executor (or if there is none, the court-appointed administrator) is responsible for making sure that estate-related expenses are paid in a timely manner. These expenses include, but are not limited to, the decedent’s memorial and funeral expenses, the decedent’s outstanding personal and government debts and legal and accounting fees. Executors also approve asset-related payments like appraisal fees, junk removal and landscaping services to ensure that the decedent’s assets do not depreciate in value and are sold at prices that reflect the current market.
Paying income, estate or inheritance taxes is an important step in the estate administration and probate process. Washington does not have an inheritance tax, but it is one of the 12 states that collects an estate tax. An estate is only subject to this tax when its value exceeds state and federal exclusions. The federal estate tax exclusion is $12.92 million in 2023. In Washington, estates valued in excess of $2.193 million are subject to the state’s estate tax. Washington’s base estate tax rate is 10%, but that figure rises to 20% for estates worth more than $9 million.
An estate’s executor pays fees, taxes, debts and various other costs during the probate process, and they often work closely with accountants because many estate-related expenses are tax deductible. Working closely with financial professionals is especially important in states like Washington that collect an estate tax and have far lower estate tax exclusions than the federal government.