When a person dies, he or she usually leaves assets in the form of real property, stocks, bonds, money in bank accounts, personal property, etc. Through the probate process, the legal heirs of the decedent are identified, the assets are marshaled, debts are paid, and the remainder is distributed to the legal heirs. If the decedent had executed a Last Will and Testament, the terms of the Will dictate how the assets are distributed. Usually the Will names a person to be appointed as a personal representative. Unless there is an objection, the court will appoint the person named in the Will to serve as the personal representative. It is this person who, working with an attorney, manages the administration of the probate. If no Will was executed during the decedent’s life, Washington State statutes provide a framework for how the assets are distributed. In such a case, the court appoints someone to serve as the administrator (the name for the person who manages the probate when there is no Will or no one named in the Will).
Many people are afraid of probate, because they have heard horror stories about how much it costs or how it’s a complicated process—however, in Washington State most probates go smoothly, and because our attorneys charge by the hour the more work you do the lower your attorneys’ fees will be. Trying to avoid probate can wind costing you much more in the long run! During the course of a probate Washington State laws guide the attorney and the personal representative at every turn. Certain notices must be provided to potential heirs and to those that the decedent may have owed money before death. Sometimes the personal representative will be granted powers by the court to administer the probate without further intervention of the court. Sometimes, the court does not grant such authority and the personal representative must obtain court approval of most actions.
Elizabeth Turner is an experienced probate attorney and can help you and your family through this difficult time.