What is probate?
After a person dies, their assets need to be distributed to their heirs. Probate is the legal process of figuring out what assets the deceased owned and then transferring those assets to the heirs.
Is probate always required?
No. Whether or not probate needs to be opened depends on many factors. Probate is not always necessary, but in some situations it may be required.
Can probate be opened even if the deceased did not have a will?
Yes. If there is no will, the person appointed by the court distributes the decedent’s assets according to Washington's intestate laws.
How is a personal representative involved in the probate process?
A personal representative is a person (typically named in a will) that the court appoints to pay bills and taxes, deal with the deceased person’s belongings, and distribute the remaining assets to the heirs.
What are probate assets?
Probate assets can include real estate titled in the deceased person's name, financial accounts with no beneficiary designations, cash, vehicles titled in the deceased person's name, and tangible personal property owned by the deceased.
What are non-probate assets?
Washington state statute defines what non-probate assets are. Typically, these are assets that are not distributed through a will and that are distributed to beneficiaries according to other documents. Some examples include financial accounts that are held jointly with right of survivorship or have a transfer on death or paid on death designation, property held in joint tenancy with right of survivorship, or real property conveyed through a transfer on death deed.
Ruth A. Harper
I'm a Pacific Northwest attorney, and my focus is on estate planning and elder law. My interest in these fields grew out of my experience with aging relatives and family members with special needs.
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