Death of a loved one can often turn our entire life upside down. It’s not only a stressful and sad time but usually also a period of confusion from a legal point of view. To make the process of settling the estate left after the deceased person a bit easier, and safer, many states go through probate.
Probate is the official term for the process of settling an estate based on the will of a deceased person. It also includes collecting assets and paying debts. Probate makes sure that the will of a person will be honored and prevents fraud from occurring. The article below will help you remember the essential things you should know about Washington State probate.
Will or No Will
The first thing you should know about the probate is how to proceed depending on the existence of a will. The whole process is different whether there’s a will left or not, and here’s what you should do in these two situations.
If there’s a will, the person responsible for filing probate is the executor. It is the executor or the attorney who represents the estate that needs to start the whole probate process if it’s needed, of course.
Here’s how the process usually looks. The person responsible files all documents necessary that the probate court later validates. After the validation, the court allows the executor or his attorney to distribute the estate, take care of any final bills, and deal with any taxes due.
But let’s say that the deceased didn’t leave the will. Then, it’s the court’s responsibility to choose someone to represent the estate. Usually, the probate court appoints an adult child or a living spouse of the descendant. After that, the chosen person needs to follow the judges’ instructions on how to proceed further.
It’s Not Required in Washington State
According to the states’ law, probate is not required. Even when the deceased person didn’t leave his or her will, it’s not an obligation to apply for probate. The necessity of it is usually determined by certain factors such as value and type of assets, and what their title is.
Assets that have their beneficiary assigned, like life insurance or retirement plans, don’t need to go through probate. Also, if an asset is titled as joint tenants with right of survivorship, the probate isn’t required as well.
The first most common reason for probate in Washington state is because the deceased persons’ assets are worth more than 100,000 dollars. The second reason occurs when the descendant has a real property titled in the assets name.
The Role of Court
All probate proceedings are under jurisdiction and supervision of the superior courts of Washington. However, if the deceased person had an owned estate in another state, it is that’s states’ court that is likely to have jurisdiction over the property.
In Washington, an administrator or a representative of the estate usually handles most of the work for probate. Things like paying bills, preparing tax returns, etc., is generally accomplished without the courts’ involvement. The courts’ task is to oversee the process and make sure it follows the law.
If the uncertainties exist and disputes arise, then the courts’ involvement may be required. The court might also help in interpreting the meaning of certain documents.
It’s never easy to predict how much time the whole probate process may require. Each situation is unique. Therefore it’s usually impossible to estimate the time needed to complete settling the assets. It all depends on many factors. The most common ones are: the existence or non-existence of a will, and the properties’ size and value.
The representatives can make partial distributions of estate assets before the whole process is officially over. Final distributions shouldn’t take place until after the creditors’ claim period, though. Usually, this claim period lasts for four months.
The necessity of the sale of the property to pay claims, taxes, or any other expenses can prolong the entire process as well.
Fees and Other Expenses
Probate costs can be different. It all depends on the complexity of an estate administration, types of assets, creditors’ claims, and the need to file tax returns. Expenses can vary from a few hundred to even several thousand dollars.
It’s also important to remember that both the personal representative and its lawyer require compensation for their work. In many cases their fee may require approval of the probate court. Their fees should be based on the amount of work involved in helping to solve the entire process of assets’ distribution.
This article doesn’t offer any legal advice, and all the information can be easily found on the internet. To get a piece of advice about the probate process in Washington State, you should contact a lawyer who will help you in deciding whether the probate is required and how you should proceed with it.