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The Probate Process

The probate process is the process by which a decedent's assets are dispersed to his or her heirs or beneficiaries. In Washington, probate can be initiated whether or not the individual left a will. During probate, all of the decedent's property is assembled, his or her beneficiaries are identified, creditors are notified of the individual's debt, debt and taxes are paid, and assets are distributed. Disputes among competing interests must also be resolved during this process.

The state of Washington has a law that governs probates. That law is Title 11: Probate and Trust Law.

The person in charge of assisting the will through the probate process is known as the personal representative (sometimes referred to as the executor or administrator). Keep in mind that the probate process and timeline will vary depending on the specific facts and circumstances. The process for an estate with one piece of property and one beneficiary will be very different than the process for a probate involving lots of different types of assets and several beneficiaries. The personal representative is required to take certain steps in most probates:

Required Steps

  • Obtain the original will and affidavit of witnesses to the will
  • If there is a will, petition the court to admit the will and name him or her as the personal representative, If there is no will, there is a different process for getting the court to grant the right to begin the probate and to name the personal representative.
  • Sign an oath agreeing to perform the duties according to law and obtain letters of administration (which are letters that authorize the personal representative to talk to banks and others).
  • If required by the court, obtain a bond which protects the estate from any losses caused by the executor through mismanagement in the probate process.
  • Notify known creditors, beneficiaries and heirs that a probate has been started and also publish notice in a newspaper.
  • Request an employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS for the estate.
  • Open a new bank account for the estate.
  • Get estate assets inventoried and appraised.
  • File tax returns for the estate
  • Provide notice to heirs and beneficiaries throughout the process.
  • Distribute property to heirs and beneficiaries in accordance with the will and law.
  • Obtain receipts for distributions and send in the receipts to the court.
  • File a Declaration of Completion and obtain court approval to close the probate.

To discuss your situation with an attorney who has more than 30+ years of legal experience, contact us at Ridgway Law Group, P.S. in Seattle.

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