When friends or loved ones pass away, they may leave a will designating where they would like their property to go after their death. Once someone passes, the property and assets amassed during their life is distributed to the beneficiaries named in the will. The estate administrator named in the will is appointed to ensure the estate is distributed according to the deceased’s wishes. In some cases, however, the deceased may not name an estate administrator or there may not be a will at all. At this point, the friends or family of the deceased may decide to put the estate through the probate process.
Unlike many other states, Washington does not require an estate to go through the probate process if there is no will present or if there is not an estate administrator. Instead, the family may decide to initiate the process. During the probate process, the decedent’s possessions and assets are located and the estate’s value is calculated. From there, the final debts, bills and taxes are paid from the estate. Finally, the remaining estate assets and possessions are distributed to the beneficiaries named in the will.
Why would a family initiate the probate process? If there is a question as to whether the last will and testament is authentic or has been altered in any way, the probate process will help to verify the information in the will. Probate also helps to organize the process of gathering up the estate and ensuring items are distributed to the rightful owners, as intended by the deceased.