Washington Probate Procedure
UPDATED: January 5, 2020
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Washington probate procedure is fairly uncomplicated, but if you don't meet the basic requirements for simple administration of the will, or if there are extraordinary circumstances in your case, there can be complications in the probate process.
The Washington probate process starts with filing a case cover sheet, which you can get by contacting the clerk of the Superior Court with jurisdiction over your case. You will then begin the process of signing and filing a number of documents. First, you'll file the decedent's actual will in probate court. Next, you'll complete and sign a form entitled the Petition for Probate of Will, Letters Testamentary, and Nonintervention Powers, and draft a proposed court order called an Order Admitting Will to Probate and Granting Letters Testamentary and Nonintervention Powers. You'll also need to sign and file an Oath of Personal Representative (With Will) form and have your signature notarized.
The next step in the process is to provide notice to the decedent's creditors of the pending probate. File a Probate Notice to Creditors form with the court and then send a copy of the filing for publication to a local newspaper. Be sure to contact the probate clerk of the court in the county with jurisdiction over your case and confirm that you have met your county's specific requirements for all the above-mentioned forms. Getting an expert's help with these filings is not unusual, so contacting an experienced Washington probate attorney may be a good idea if the paperwork gets confusing or if you have a complicated situation and need answers.
Procedure for Intestate Washington Decedents
Note that if the decedent died intestate (that is, without a will) you obviously will not be filing any will with the probate court. Instead, you will file the following forms in place of the above-mentioned ones: a Petition for Letters of Administration & Nonintervention Powers, an Order Granting Letters of Administration & Nonintervention Powers, and an Oath of Personal Representative (Without Will).
Once you have filled out all the appropriate paperwork and gone to probate court, you can usually expect the probate estate to be closed within 12 months. There are exceptions to this, including those cases where an estate tax return must be filed (usually if the value of the estate exceeds $2,000,000), or where there are problems resolving debts with the decedent's creditors. If you experience problems like these, or anticipate having issues with debts and estate taxes, you can file a request for an extension of time of up to 36 months to close the probate estate. If you have more questions about the Washington probate process, or would like help in going through each step of the process, you should seek the services of a Washington probate attorney.
For more information, check out our article on the Basics of Washington Probate.