This is the third installment of our very exciting series on Washington State Probate. This post will cover basics on what happens when someone passes away and an original Will cannot be located and what happens when someone passes away without executing a Will.
Washington State Probate: What happens if I cannot find an original Will?
A typical legal answer, but if you cannot find an original Will, the best processes depends on the situation. The laws presumes that if an original Will cannot be found that the deceased person destroyed it. If you believe that a deceased’s Will is lost rather than destroyed, talk to an attorney. There are ways to start a probate with a copy of a deceased’s Will. Probate proceedings where an individual is petitioning the court to prove a lost Will may be costlier; however, it is possible that proving a lost Will can honor the wishes of the deceased person and/or have substantial tax savings.
Washington State Probate: What happens if someone dies without a Will?
If someone dies without a Will, the legal term is that the person died “intestate”. Intestate simply means “died without a Will”. Intestate estates also go through probate for the same purposes as estates where the deceased died testate (with a valid will). See the first post in the series for the purposes of probate.
If a person dies intestate, Washington State law governs how the assets are distributed and who is appointed Administrator of the estate. This is in contrast to when someone dies with a valid Will. When someone dies with a valid Will, their Will controls where/how their assets are distributed and who is appointed the personal representative. Note: the term “Administrator” is used when an individual dies without a Will and the term “personal representative” is used when a person dies with a valid Will. The functions of the two are essentially the same.
The law governing how assets are distributed when someone dies without a Will depends on many factors, such as whether the deceased was married at the time of his or her death, whether he or she had children, living parents, etc. The actual statute can be found here.
Probates for an intestate decedent are often more costly as they may require court oversight to approve actions taken on behalf of hte estate and for the Administrator to obtain a bond insuring they act in the best interests of the estate.
To get more information on Washington State probate or if you need assistance in estate planning, reach out.
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.