Probating a Will in Washington State

By Cindy DeRuyter, J.D.

Probating a Will in Washington State

By Cindy DeRuyter, J.D.

If you have a loved one in Washington state who has died, their will might need to go through a formal probate administration before you distribute estate assets. Probate proceedings prove the will and appoint a personal representative. The personal representative is responsible for administering the estate according to the terms of the will and Washington law.

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If you need to open a probate in Washington state, follow the steps outlined below.

1. File a petition and oath with the court.

To start a probate administration, a nominated personal representative must file a petition with the Washington State Superior Court probate division. The personal representative may file with the court in the county where their loved one died, in the county where the personal representative lives, or in the county where a majority of the beneficiaries live.

As part of the initial petition, you must provide the original will (if it is available), the names and addresses of beneficiaries named in the will, and the names and addresses of other heirs or interested parties, and you might need to provide a certified copy of your loved one's death certificate. You need to provide information about whether the estate is solvent, meaning it has more assets than liabilities. You must also file an affidavit with the court stating that you are willing and able to act as your loved one's personal representative.

You must pay the court's filing fees to open a probate matter. Some Washington superior courts also require case cover sheets for probate filings. Check with the applicable county superior court to determine current fees and whether the court requires any additional information.

2. Wait for probate court approval.

After receiving all required information, the court reviews the petition and determines whether to open the probate case as requested. In some cases, the petitioner might need to attend a court hearing. When the court approves a petition, it issues an order officially appointing the personal representative and a legal document called "letters testamentary." This is the document that authorizes you, as the personal representative, to access the deceased person's assets and administer them according to the terms of the will.

3. Notify interested parties.

As personal representative, you are responsible for notifying heirs, named beneficiaries, creditors, the Washington Department of Social and Health Services, and any other interested parties about the probate matter and about your appointment by the court to administer the estate.

4. Prepare an inventory of estate assets.

You should inventory estate assets and liabilities and provide a copy of the inventory to any beneficiary who requests it. You may need to arrange for property appraisals to determine and substantiate the values of certain assets.

5. Manage and distribute estate assets.

You are also responsible for safeguarding, managing, and administering the estate. This often involves paying valid debts, paying final expenses, collecting assets, filing all required tax returns, and making distributions as determined in the will.

6. Close the probate estate with the superior court.

You can close the probate after you have paid valid debts and expenses and distributed remaining assets to the beneficiaries. You need to file a declaration and beneficiaries' receipts with the applicable county superior court.

Some estates are eligible for a simplified probate process. Certain estates that are deemed small by Washington law qualify for a streamlined probate process, which offers simplified administration.

Washington state's probate laws are complex. That are several steps to follow to accomplish your role as a personal representative. You may wish to retain a Washington state probate attorney to help you through the process.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.