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The Probate Process

What is Probate?

Probate is a legal process in which a person (called a "personal representative") obtains legal authority to wind up the affairs of a deceased person and to transfer the decedent's assets to the beneficiaries of the estate.  In Washington, most personal representatives obtain "nonintervention powers" enabling them to administer the estate without court intervention, resulting in a simplified and relatively inexpensive process.

When Probate Is Unnecessary

In some cases, probate will not be necessary:

  • If all of the property of the decedent will be automatically transferred to a third party upon death such as:

    • assets with beneficiary designations 

    • jointly held property with right of survivorship

    • payable on death or transfer on death accounts

    • real property where a transfer on death deed has been recorded

  • In the case of a married couple, when there is a surviving spouse and an existing community property agreement.

  • If the total value of assets of the decedent is under $100,000 and there is no real estate.

  • If all of the decedent's assets have been transferred to a trust prior to death.

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