Updated: Feb 15, 2019
Probate is often a a misunderstood topic. Many view probate as a costly long process and many do not know what probate is in the first place. Probate is a court-monitored process used to administer the estate of a deceased individual (decedent). Let's break that down a little.
When someone passes away, the decedent may have had real property, various accounts, debts, and personal items that will need to be accounted for. Who is responsible for making sure that debts are taken care of and that assets are distributed to the correct heirs? If the decedent had a Will, she/he should have nominated a personal representative (PR) to take over the role of administering the estate. If the decedent did not have a Will, this person is called the administrator.
Once probate is opened, the PR will receive letters testamentary from the Court. RCW 11.28.090. Financial institutions, with which the decedent had accounts, will often want to review a letter testamentary before granting access to the PR. In essence, letters testamentary allow the PR to access estate assets for the purpose of making distributions to heirs. Letters testamentary also becomes helpful if a PR needs to transfer real property to heirs.
The PR can also publish a notice to creditors. RCW 11.40.030. Doing so can narrow the two year window that creditors normally have to collect down to four months. Creditor claims that are not presented within the appropriate four month window are subsequently barred. RCW 11.40.051.
Are probates expensive? The answer to that question will depend on the complexity of the estate. Washington State probates are much more streamlined in comparison to probates in states such as California. However, probate may not be the best option for certain estates. Speaking with a probate attorney to go over your options is a wise first step.
Disclaimer: The purpose of this post is to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By accessing this blog site you understand that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and Sekhon Law, PLLC. This post should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.