Probate & Estate Administration
Probate is the legal process by which a person’s debts are paid and assets are distributed upon her or his death. Estate Administration includes the probate process as well as non-probate transfers of the deceased’s assets. If there is a will, the property goes to the named beneficiaries. If the decedent left no will, assets are distributed according to state laws of intestate succession.
Our skilled attorneys can help you navigate this complex area of the elder law landscape. We represent both Personal Representatives and heirs in probate matters.
Frequently Asked Questions About Probate & Estate Administration
Probate is the legal process by which a person’s debts are paid and assets are distributed upon their death.
Generally, if your loved one owned real estate when they died a probate will be necessary to sell or transfer the real estate. Also, if your loved one had financial accounts in excess of $100,000 and did not name beneficiaries on the accounts, a probate will likely be necessary. It is best to contact an attorney for a definitive answer.
If all of your loved one’s assets were transferred to the Trustee of a Trust to manage before your loved one died, it is unlikely that a probate will be needed. Instead, the terms of the Trust will be followed to distribute the assets of your loved one. Trustees often hire an attorney to make sure they follow the Trust administration process outlined in the Washington Trust Act.
Letters Testamentary is the document issued by the Court that gives the personal representative the authority to act on behalf of the estate.
It is necessary to file a Petition with the Court to request that you be appointed the personal representative of your loved one’s estate and that the Court enter an Order appointing you as the personal representative. If your loved one had a Will and you are the nominated Personal Representative, the process for getting Letters Testamentary is usually quite simple. If your loved one did not have a Will, the process can be more complex and time consuming.
Once the Court appoints a personal representative (“executor” if named in a Will, or “administrator” where there is no Will), it is their responsibility to distribute your loved one’s assets after all liabilities and expenses have been paid. If there is a valid Will, the disposition plan laid out in the Will is followed. If your loved one died without a Will (intestate), then state laws dictate who receives your loved one’s assets.
The probate process varies by state, but Washington State is considered to have one of the least expensive and most efficient processes in the country. Though every probate involves the Court, generally probate is a lot less expensive and less time consuming than people expect. With the right guidance, probate can be successfully navigated without making the costly mistakes that can come from inexperience. For more specific guidance, please contact one of our experienced probate attorneys.
The length of time from commencing the probate to closing an estate can vary from six months to several years, with most taking less than a year. The duration of the probate will depend on the complexity of the administration, tax considerations, the nature of the estate assets, and the wishes of the estate beneficiaries.