What is Probate?

What is probate?

Probate is the process in which we determine what property a deceased person owned, find and settle any debts against his or her estate, and distribute his or her property in accordance with the will, or in accordance with Whalley law. Except for the appointment of a personal representative and distributions, the process is largely the same whether there is a will or not.

The process begins with a petition to the court, requesting that an individual be appointed personal representative, and Letters of Testamentary or Letters of Administration be granted. The personal representative (commonly referred to as executor in other states) is the individual with the authority to act on behalf of the estate and take possession of all of the deceased’s assets. The Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration show the individual’s authority to act.

Once the personal representative’s petition is approved by the court, the personal representative must submit an Oath of Personal Representative, swearing that he or she is qualified to serve and that he or she will carry out the duties of the position to the best of his or her ability and in accordance with the law.

After the appointment, the personal representative must provide notice to other potential heirs or other beneficiaries of the deceased’s estate. In addition, the personal representative may provide notice to creditors of the estate.

At the same time, the personal representative must begin working on an inventory of the deceased’s estate. This can include real property, bank accounts, vehicles, stocks and bonds, and any other property the deceased may have owned when he or she passed. When compiling the inventory, he or she should also determine the fair value of any assets. It is important to start early, as there is a time limit for providing a copy of the inventory to interested parties once a request is received.

Once any claims against the estate have been paid, the inventory is complete, and any taxes have been paid, the personal representative can begin preparing to close the estate. If the personal representative was granted nonintervention powers, he or she can close the estate simply by filing a Declaration of Completion of Probate with the court and providing notice to any heirs of the filing. If no heir or interested party objects to the closing within thirty days, the estate closes automatically.

Compared to some states, where the probate process is complicated and can take years to complete, Washington’s process is relatively streamlined and easy to navigate once started. Because of this, the process may be simple enough to handle on your own. However, for many that are already dealing with the loss of a friend or relative, the added stress of the legal process can be overwhelming. Schedule a consultation with us today, and we will be happy to review the process with you, along with the specifics of your case.

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