When someone passes away, their assets and other possessions must be transferred to their beneficiaries. In Washington, this process is known as probate. It is a legal procedure that gives someone, usually a surviving spouse or close family member, the authority to manage the deceased person's assets, pay debts and taxes, and ultimately transfer the assets to the rightful heirs. Probate is not always required in Washington, regardless of whether the deceased had a valid will or not.
This depends on the size and value of the estate, the work done by the personal representative, any creditors' claims, and whether the will is being contested. Creditors have four months to file claims if they are notified of the death, and an estate tax return must be filed within nine months of the death (although this can be extended). If there are disagreements between family members, if the will is challenged, or if the personal representative is not diligent in their duties, probate can take much longer and become quite costly. Understanding Probate TimelinesThe timeline for probate depends on several factors such as the size of the estate, the type of assets and their value, and whether disputes arise between creditors or beneficiaries.
If there are disagreements between family members, if the will is challenged, or if the personal representative is not diligent in their duties, probate can take much longer and become quite costly. Legalization may be necessary when a person dies leaving a property in their own name (such as a house titled only in the name of the deceased) or having the right to receive the property. As with the federal return, if a Washington return is required, it must be filed within nine months of the date of the decedent's death. When both spouses' names are in bank accounts or real estate, the surviving spouse rarely has trouble accessing bank accounts. There are also other ways to sell real estate when that time comes (through a process called Affidavit of Failure to Succession).Once a personal representative has been identified either through designation in the will or appointment by the court, they will direct the probate process from start to finish. The personal representative may receive fair compensation for liquidating an estate through probate. Assets placed in a revocable trust will also avoid probate as they have already been transferred to the trust that names specific beneficiaries.
This simplifies and speeds up the process. If disputes arise during probate, it must be formally conducted under the supervision and direction of a judge of Washington State court. For more information on these types of “non-evidentiary” assets, visit the Non-evidentiary Assets page of this site. Through probate, all assets are liquidated and transferred to heirs and beneficiaries according to state law. When you're grieving for a loved one, you don't want to deal with a lengthy and complicated succession process. That's why it's important to understand how probate works in Washington State.