Following a loved one’s death, the question of what to do with their estate becomes of great importance. Many people pass unexpectedly, and don’t leave a will, leading to questions regarding who among the remaining loved ones will inherit the resources left behind.
This website exists to serve the people of Washington State. To be a resource for educating individuals and families on navigating through this process.
Do I Need to File a Probate in WA?
There are currently no legal requirement to file a probate in the state of Washington. However, this very common legal procedure is the way that some assets must be formally passed from the person who is deceased to his or her heirs or beneficiaries.
Some people don’t want to probate a will. There is no requirement in place that necessitates a will or property go through probate, but if the decedent owned property that is not arranged specifically to avoid probate (see below), there is no way for the beneficiaries to obtain legal ownership without it. There are some exceptions to this. Florida law allows a family to own property in a decedent’s name if they continue to pay taxes and do not sell it.
t is possible to avoid probate entirely with careful planning. This is desirable for some people because doing so not only reduces legal fees, but it can mean avoiding the estate tax, which can take a significant amount of a very wealthy estate. Avoiding probate can also protect privacy, since some of the records may not be available to the public.
One of the most popular ways to avoid probate is through the use of a revocable living trust. Assets are placed in the trust, but they can used by the trust creator during his or her lifetime. Upon death, assets in the trust are passed to the trust beneficiaries just by operation of the trust document. No probate is necessary.
Life insurance policies pass property outside of probate. Whoever you name as beneficiary on your life insurance policy will receive the death benefit directly with no probate process.
Some retirement accounts can pass outside of probate. The account owner names a beneficiary and that person then receives the balance of the account after the owner’s death. Payable on death accounts operate the same way.
Real estate that is owned as joint tenants, or joint tenants by the entirety passes outside of probate as well. This type of property has two owners. When the first owner passes away, the second one automatically owns the property.
Most families will have some contact with a probate court whether or not a will was created, but in most cases, the process is streamlined and inexpensive.