This Washington State Probate blog series has been all about probate, you can catch up here. This post is going to be slightly different in that it will discuss a potential way to avoid probate. Again, probate in Washington State is typically not as bad as it is in other states (California!). Washington State arguably has one of the best probate systems in the nation.
However, probate may be cost prohibitive or unnecessary in the event the Decedent died owning very little probate assets OR if the Decedent participated in probate avoidance planning, but missed a small asset or two in their planning.
Washington State Probate: Probate Alternative-Small Estate Affidavit
However, if the Decedent’s estate does not contain real estate and the entire value of the probate assets are less than $100,000, the Decedent’s estate may not need to go through Washington state probate. In this scenario, a Small Estate Affidavit, also call an Affidavit of Survivor may be used to claim the assets of the Deceased.
Washington State Probate: Who can use a Small Estate Affidavit?
Washington State allows the following individuals to claim property using a small estate affidavit (aka Affidavit of Successor): any person who is indebted to or who has possession of any personal property belonging to the Decedent. This may include a spouse or child of the Decedent.
Washington State Probate: What is the waiting period before I can present a Small Estate Affidavit?
The Small Estate Affidavit may not be presented until forty days from the date of the Decedent’s death.
Washington State Probate: What information is to be included in the Small Estate Affidavit?
The Affidavit must contain at a minimum the following:
(a) The claiming successor's name and address, and that the claiming successor is a "successor" as defined in RCW 11.62.005;
(b) That the decedent was a resident of the state of Washington on the date of his or her death;
(c) That the value of the decedent's entire estate subject to probate, not including the surviving spouse's or surviving domestic partner's community property interest in any assets which are subject to probate in the decedent's estate, wherever located, less liens and encumbrances, does not exceed one hundred thousand dollars;
(d) That forty days have elapsed since the death of the decedent;
(e) That no application or petition for the appointment of a personal representative is pending or has been granted in any jurisdiction;
(f) That all debts of the decedent including funeral and burial expenses have been paid or provided for;
(g) A description of the personal property and the portion thereof claimed, together with a statement that such personal property is subject to probate;
(h) That the claiming successor has given written notice, either by personal service or by mail, identifying his or her claim, and describing the property claimed, to all other successors of the decedent, and that at least ten days have elapsed since the service or mailing of such notice; and
(i) That the claiming successor is either personally entitled to full payment or delivery of the property claimed or is entitled to full payment or delivery thereof on the behalf and with the written authority of all other successors who have an interest therein.
Washington State Probate: What additional steps would be advisable?
A copy of the Affidavit, including the decedent's social security number, must be mailed to the State of Washington, department of social and health services, office of financial recovery
Best practice would be to consider in addition to the Small Estate Affidavit, filing and publishing a Non-Probate Notice to Creditors to shorten the statute of limitations for creditors claims. You can read about creditors claims in a prior Washington State Probate blog post here.
Best practice would be to consider in addition to the Small Estate Affidavit, filing the original Will with the Superior Court through a “Will File Only”. The current filing fee for a Will File Only filing is $20.
Disclaimer: The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice from Leos & Gilkerson, PLLC or the individual author, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this Post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a licensed lawyer.