Probate Probate Proceedings

Probate is a legal procedure through which a decedent’s property is transferred to the beneficiaries after administering the decedent’s estate, paying the validly claimed debts and administrative cost and taxes. When a decedent’s property is not distributed by contract (Revocable Living Trust, community property agreement) or a beneficiary designation (a life insurance policy or IRAs) or operation of law (joint tenancy with right of survivorship, etc.), the decedent’s assets usually have to go through formal probate proceedings.

Probate proceedings are usually as follows:

  1. Petition to probate a will is filed with the court. If the decedent died without a will, a petition for letter of administration is filed with the court.
  2. Appointment of Personal Representative is made to collect, manage and settle a decedent’s estate. The court will issue “letter testamentary” to the Personal Representative. This provides third parties with notice of the Personal Representative’s appointment by the court. If the decedent died with a valid will, the court will appoint an administrator instead of a personal representative. Both have the same duties.
  3. The duties of the personal representative and administrator include the followings:
  • Notify heirs and creditors of the probate proceedings.
  • Manage the decedent’s probate assets.
  • Establish the fair market value of the estate assets.
  • Determine all beneficiaries and heirs.
  • Collects all income and debts owed to the decedent.
  • Represent the estate and prosecute lawsuits for the estate.
  • Prepare tax returns and pay all taxes.
  • Pay the valid claims of creditors.
  • Sell estate assets to raise funds to settle claims and pay necessary cost and expenses.
  • Transfer assets to beneficiaries.
  • File Declaration of Completion of probate with the court to notify that the decedent’s estate is complete.

The Role of the Court

Probate proceedings are subject to the supervision of the superior courts of Washington. However, if the decedent owned property in another state, that state’s courts may have jurisdiction over the property. Sometimes that necessitates probate administration in more than one state.

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category: Probate

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