This is one of those questions that it’s even hard for Google to answer. Why? It depends! The public process of paying the debts and distributing the assets of the deceased, known as probate, can be long, or short, depending on state procedures, the complexity of the estate and family dynamics. Here are some general probate basics, with examples of the proceedings in Washington State.
Misunderstandings About Probate
Much about the probate process is misunderstood. For example, a common myth suggests that if we have a will, we can by-pass probate. That is not true: in fact, generally, the filing of a will, along with the death certificate, initiates the probate process. When there is not a will, what is different is that state laws of intestacy determine the distribution of assets.
By working with an estate planning lawyer, we can place assets in various types of trusts. Assets placed in a trust do by-pass the public probate process, making it faster and more private for our loved ones to access them. Nonetheless, for most families, some form of will, such as a “pour over will” ultimately helps to ensure that all affairs are as neatly ordered as possible. It’s also helpful to know that some assets, like life insurance policies and retirement accounts, are not subject to the probate process. That’s why it is extra important to ensure the beneficiaries named on these assets are accurate and current.
Though the probate process is rumored to be notoriously long and cumbersome, the truth is that many states now offer expedited processes, based on the level of assets involved. LegalZoom offers this demystification of the probate process:
The basic role of the probate court judge is to assure that the deceased person’s creditors are paid, and that any remaining assets are distributed to the proper beneficiaries…Probate is a legal procedure by which a court oversees the distribution of property of a person who has died. Many states have a specialized probate court. In some states it is called by other names, such as Surrogate’s Court, Orphan’s Court or Chancery Court.The court appoints someone to take control of the deceased person’s assets, ensure that all debts are properly paid, and distribute the remaining property to the proper beneficiaries.
Personal Representative and Administrator Bonds
Probate courts often require the procurement of a probate bond. Sometimes specifically referred to as a personal representative bond or administrator bond, these bonds protect the interests of the estate and its beneficiaries in accordance with applicable state law. You can learn more about the role of personal representative bonds in protecting the interests of the estate and its beneficiaries right here.
Although bond names and requirements vary from state to state, when a probate or surrogate court anywhere in the country requires a bond, national expert, Colonial Surety is here to help. We are a direct, digital provider of a full portfolio of bonds, and make it quick and easy to quote, purchase and e-file required bonds, from anywhere, in minutes—even before leaving court. Obtain a Personal Representative Bond Here Now.
Probate Proceedings In Washington
In Washington State, the Personal Representative of the deceased, or an Administrator named by the court, is given authorized “to take possession and preserve a decedent’s property, pay debts and settle the decedent’s affairs with the right beneficiaries.” From there, as B-Town Blog further explains:
Depending on each case, probate can be slightly different and the timeline for how long the process takes can also differ…Washington State allows for two simplified probate procedures; an affidavit that does not involve the probate court and a settlement without court intervention which despite its name, does involve the probate court. The affidavit procedure can be used if the value of the probate assets is less than $100,000. The settlement without court intervention can be used:
- If the estate has adequate assets to pay debts and taxes
- If there is a will, the personal representative named in the will petitions the court
- If there is no will, the surviving spouse petitions the court
- If the court determines it would be in the best interest of the beneficiaries and creditors
Ultimately, the duration of the probate process is dependent on the assets involved, the ability and availability of the personal representative or administrator to move through the tasks involved, and creditor claims. Assets cannot be distributed until debts are settled. Of course, if there are family conflicts, or a contested will, the probate process takes longer. As B-Town Blog points out, whether or not taxes are filed in a timely way, or extensions sought, can play a big role in the completion of the probate process too.
As a direct, national provider of personal representative bonds, Colonial writes bonds that meet the specific requirements of courts in each state. Uniquely, Colonial offers speedy, digital personal representative bonds and administrator bonds. The steps to obtaining bonds with Colonial are easy: get a quote online, fill out the information, and enter a payment method. Print or e-file the bond from anywhere—even from your phone while in probate court.
Whatever bond lawyers and their clients need to keep cases moving, Colonial Surety’s got it! As a direct writer, we meet the specific requirements of every obligee—in every state.
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