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Understanding The Basics Of Probate In Washington

Last updated on May 29, 2020

Probate is a court-supervised process for settling the estate of a person who has died (known as the decedent). The process allows for the transfer of the decedent’s property and ensures that those who may have an interest in the estate are notified and protected. Examples of parties who may have an interest in the estate include beneficiaries, heirs, creditors and tax authorities.

The probate process begins by validating the decedent’s will if one exists, appointing a person to take care of the decedent’s finances (known as a legal fiduciary) and determining the rightful beneficiaries of the estate. Probate also includes identifying and giving notice to the decedent’s creditors. Creditors must file claims within a statutory period beyond which they are forever barred.

When Are Estates Required To Go Through Probate?

Estates are subject to probate when the decedent has assets that are not transferred by contract after their death. Examples of contracts that transfer assets include retirement accounts and insurance policies that name beneficiaries, joint tenancy accounts and community property agreements. If the value of the assets subject to probate is below a state-mandated level, Washington has a small estates process that can be used rather than a formal probate.

The Role Of The Personal Representative

During probate, the personal representative takes inventory of the decedent’s assets and debts and determines the rightful beneficiaries to the decedent’s property. The personal representative must also ensure that the proper tax returns are filed for the decedent and the estate, provide required notices to interested parties and distribute assets to the beneficiaries. Some estates can go through probate in five to six months, but for more complex estates, it can take as long as two years to settle the estate.

To Learn More About Probate, Contact Our Firm Today

If you need guidance through the probate process, we can help. Call Probate Attorneys of Washington 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.