Frequently Asked Questions About Probate
When we have our initial consultation with clients inquiring about probate, we always go over the basics of how the process works and what the responsibilities of a personal representative entail. Most of our clients are in this role for the first time and have a lot of specific questions for us. Listed below are answers to the questions we hear most often.
Is probate required in Washington state?
Not necessarily, but if you need to obtain letters testamentary, sell real property (in most cases) or confirm the will and proper beneficiaries, the estate will need to go through probate.
How much does it cost to probate an estate in Washington state?
Court fees and two letters testamentary cost $250. Attorney fees vary depending on the nature of the estate, often running several thousand dollars.
How long does the probate process take?
The probate process can take as short as five months but often takes longer. A key time component is the four-month creditor claim period that begins once the personal representative is appointed.
Are there reasons to open a probate even though it’s not required?
Even if probate is not necessary, you might consider opening one If you are uncertain about who the rightful beneficiaries of the estate are or if you want to be able to know with certainty that all potentially valid creditor claims have been satisfied.
What are alternatives to probate in Washington state?
Before death, a person can organize his or her estate to minimize the assets that could be subject to probate by using tools like beneficiary designations on retirement accounts and insurance policies, joint tenant with right of survivorship accounts and community property agreements.
After death, even if there is property subject to probate, you may be able to use Washington state’s “small estate” process if the decedent had no more than $100,000 in probate assets at death.
What if the decedent didn’t have a will?
When a person dies without a will, Washington’s intestacy statute governs who will receive the decedent’s property. The persons who are entitled to receive the decedent’s property under the intestacy statute are the decedent’s heirs.
What if the decedent had a will but we can’t find it?
Keep looking. Individuals commonly store their wills in safe deposit boxes, file cabinets and home safes. The attorney that drafted the will for the decedent may also have retained an original copy if you are able to get in contact. It is important to obtain the original will and not a photocopy.
What if we only have a copy of the will and not the original?
If you do not have the original will and only have a copy, the court will presume that the testator wanted the will revoked. To admit the copy of the will, you have to overcome this presumption with clear, cogent and convincing evidence that the testator did not want the will revoked and that the copy is a true copy of the original. This can be accomplished through testimony from the witnesses who were present when the original was signed along with testimony from those who can show that the testator did not want the will revoked. Alternatively, if Washington’s intestacy statute would transfer the decedent’s estate in the same way as the will, a probate can be opened without a will, which may be a faster and simpler route.
For More Information, Contact Our Firm
To learn more about how Probate Attorneys of Washington can help guide you through the probate process, call us at 360-362-0857 or fill out our online contact form. We can set up an initial consultation at a time and place of your choosing to review the estate and go over the tasks ahead of you.