Washington Probate: The Basics
Probate law deals with the administration and distribution of the personal assets and estate of an individual after death. If you are legal heir to the estate of a recently deceased Washington resident, Washington probate court is an option available to you to assist in the efficient transfer of property. At the same time, many heirs want to avoid probate court altogether, and in most cases, it is possible to do so in Washington.
Bypassing Washington Probate
Washington law does not require probate proceedings after the death of a property holder. Probate in Washington is a legal option available to those who survived the decedent and who consider themselves heirs or beneficiaries to the decedent's estate. If the decedent died with any real property titled in his or her name, or with personal property in excess of $100,000, then probate will likely prove useful. While probate court is merely an option, Washington state law does require that the will (if there is one) be filed with the Clerk's Office of the Superior Court within 40 days of death.
If the decedent's probate assets consist only of personal property (not real property) and are valued at less than $100,000, the titles to this property can transfer to the heir without the use of probate. This is done by filing an affidavit in Washington Superior Court which may be called, depending on the jurisdiction, a Personal Property Affidavit, Small Estate Affidavit, or Personal Property Transfer Affidavit.
If there is no real property in the estate, and the estate's value is less than $100,000, this affidavit may be used to deal with all of the decedent's probate assets (non-probate assets are not factored in to the $100,000 calculation; neither is any surviving spouse's one-half interest in their community property). To use this affidavit, the decedent's debts must all be accounted for, the decedent must have been a Washington resident, he or she must have died solvent, and the affidavit must only be used by someone who is a "successor" of the decedent.
Additional Washington Probate Resources
Also, see our article on Washington Probate Procedure.