Here at Sanders Law Group, we get many questions about probate in Washington state. Here are answers to some of the most common ones:
Before we start, did you know we live in one of best states in the Union for retirement? Not only do we not have an income tax, our probate process is fairly simple and inexpensive, especially when compared to some other states.
- What is probate? Probate is a judicial process that transfers a person’s property to heirs upon the person’s death. It is a court proceeding.
- When is probate necessary? Typically, probate is not needed for estates worth less than $100,000. There may be other situations that can avoid probate, such as when there is a community property agreement between spouses.
- Is probate expensive? Everyone talks about ways to avoid probate. Happily, in the state of Washington it’s not nearly as expensive as some other states. (When we use the term “some other states,” we really mean California.) The cost to file a probate with the court here is $249.00, and the typical cost for our law firm to do a probate runs between $1,500 and $2,000. That would be for an uncontested proceeding. If there’s a dispute, the cost can increase dramatically. In some other states, just the court filing fees can run into the thousands of dollars, with attorney fees on top of that.
- Is probate complicated? Not especially. There are procedures to be followed, but if there are no disputes, it’s a straightforward process. Please note the phrase “if there are no disputes.”
- What is a personal representative? Also called the administrator or executor, this is someone named in the will to handle the affairs of the estate.
- If there are creditors of the estate, are the administrator or family members personally required to pay them? Creditors can only seek payment from the estate itself, not representatives or family members.
- How are creditor’s claims against the estate handled? Creditors must follow a strict set of guidelines in order for their claims to be upheld. Failure to follow these guidelines can mean that the creditor is “forever barred” from collecting. This is very strong legal language which means that the debt never has to be repaid.
- What happens if there is a dispute over the will? In that case, the dispute would probably fall under Washington’s Trust and Estate Dispute Resolution Act, or TEDRA. This is a series of laws set up to resolve these disputes quickly and without excessive formality.
- Do I need a revocable living trust to avoid probate? There is no hard and fast rule about using a trust, though using one to avoid probate is not required in Washington. There are other reasons for using a trust. For example, if the estate includes property in more than one state, it’s a good idea to put the out-of-state property into trust. This avoids having to do a probate in each state.
- Do I need an attorney to handle the probate? A probate is a court matter. To someone who is not experienced in dealing with the court, it can be a time-consuming and frustrating experience. To avoid unforeseen problems and to save time, hiring an experienced probate attorney is worth the fee.
- Is there a way to make probate simpler? A well-written will helps make the process go much more quickly and smoothly.
If you have questions we can answer about Probate or other legal concerns, give us a call. We are happy to be serving our local community and our office is conveniently located in downtown Edmonds.
— By Peggy Sanders, Attorney, and Ralph Sanders
152 3rd Ave. S. #101
Edmonds, WA 98020
The information contained in this article is intended for general informational purposes and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice can only be given with a full understanding of a particular client’s facts and circumstances and an examination of all relevant personal documents already in existence; if you have specific legal questions you should consult a licensed attorney in your area.