How much does probate cost in Washington State? The cost varies on the size and nature of the estate. Unlike that of some other states, Washington state law does not provide for the amount of commission or fees to be based on the value of the estate.
Probate law covers what happens with a deceased person’s property after death. The assets (possessions and wealth) are the decedent’s “estate.” While not required in all situations, if you are the estate’s personal representative, it would be wise to follow the probate process. If executed properly, it can be a form of liability protection. It should ensure that the estate’s property is appropriately used to pay debts, costs, and taxes with the remainder distributed to heirs.
HOW MUCH DOES PROBATE COST IN WASHINGTON STATE?
The questions, “How much does probate cost in Washington state?” and “How much does it cost to probate a will in Washington State?” are common ones. While considering the cost of probate in Washington state, think about the information below regarding fixed and potential costs that you can anticipate when engaged in the probate process. All fees are approximate.
Superior Court filing fee: $200
Publication of Probate Notice to Creditors: $100
Out-of-pocket expenses (copying, mailing, etc.): $50
Total fixed costs = $350 or more (depending on the county of publication.)
POTENTIAL COSTS (COMMISSIONS AND FEES)
Personal Representative’s commissions: This fee may be waived if an heir or beneficiary performs the job, but an executor can receive just and reasonable compensation for their efforts. The court overseeing the process will want to see records of the executor’s time spent on the estate and what they were doing. There is no set hourly rate. A court may look at the complexity or difficulty of what was done and the skills or expertise the person brought to the task when judging what should be paid. If a court determines the personal representative failed to discharge his or her duties, the person may deny or reduce the compensation.
Appraiser’s fees: Hiring an estate appraiser may be necessary, depending on the nature of the estate. The personal representative must maximize the value of the estate, which is possible only if that value is known. An appraiser can be used to give an educated estimate of the value of real estate, jewelry, antiques, collectibles, and a business owned by the deceased. It would not be wise to put items of value up for sale without knowing what a fair price would be.
Accountant’s fees: Retaining an accountant may be necessary, given the nature and complexity of the estate. Know when you might be getting in over your head when it comes to keeping track of the estate’s books, especially if accounting and business math are not your strong points. A personal representative could be held personally liable for financially mismanaging an estate, so get professional help if you feel the need.
What is the cost of probate? In sum, an individual engaged in the probate process can anticipate spending a minimum of $350 in fixed costs, plus commissions and fees. In Washington, attorney commissions and fees are generally based on hours worked and must be approved by the court.
WHAT ARE THE ATTORNEY’S FEES FOR PROBATE?
Legal help may not be necessary for the simplest probate matters, but you should get legal help if you have questions about the process or what you should do. A personal representative could face possible liability if he or she is accused of not doing the job correctly. The cost of attorney’s fees for probate could be considered the price of protecting yourself and the estate from possible legal challenges.
A court should accept the payment of just and reasonable attorney’s fees. Those fees must be only for reasonably necessary work; work shouldn’t be unnecessarily repeated. Time spent by attorneys should reflect how complex the matter is, and they should not bill for the time that should have been spent by less costly staff members.
WHEN IS PROBATE NECESSARY IN WASHINGTON STATE?
Probate is not always necessary in Washington state. Common instances when probate may be skipped include when:
- The deceased has assets in joint tenancy.
- Assets are subject to community property agreements.
- Beneficiaries are named in places outside the will, such as pay-on-death bank accounts.
- Assets are held in trust.
- The beneficiary is to receive life insurance proceeds or pension benefits.
Although probate can be avoided in many instances, it may be in the best interests of the estate and beneficiaries to go through the process. Probate, although sometimes time-consuming, is not as bulky in Washington state as it is in some other jurisdictions.
Additionally, the probate process provides an inexpensive level of judicial protection to the decedent’s wishes and their beneficiaries.
HOW MUCH DOES AN ESTATE HAVE TO BE WORTH TO GO TO PROBATE IN WASHINGTON STATE?
Estates below a certain value do not need to go through probate. How much does an estate have to be worth to go to probate in Washington state? The answer is $100,000. Below this amount, estates need not go through probate, assuming the estate is free from liens and debts.
Instead, the estate will go through what is known as the small estate affidavit process. During this process, the personal representative of the estate must submit an accurate accounting of the estate’s assets and craft a plan for the distribution of those assets to the estate’s beneficiaries.
In many cases, this alternative to probate can be quite trying for the personal representative, especially one without experience in such matters. Hence, it is recommended that personal representatives in this position enlist the services of an experienced probate attorney to assist and guide them.
IS AN EXECUTOR THE SAME AS A PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE?
For all intents and purposes, an executor is the same as a personal representative in Washington state. The terms are often used interchangeably and carry the same effect during the probate process.
WHO CAN SERVE AS EXECUTOR IN WASHINGTON?
Any person 18 years or older and of sound mind can serve as an executor or personal representative if they have not been convicted of a felony or a crime of moral turpitude.
MUST AN ESTATE FILE FEDERAL OR STATE INCOME TAXES DURING PROBATE?
A federal tax return must be filed within nine months of an individual’s death if an estate’s value exceeds the decedent’s estate exemption amount. The estate’s value will be calculated based on the date of the decedent’s death or six months after their death, whichever date is most beneficial to the estate.
A state tax return must also be filed within nine months of a decedent’s passing, but only if the estate has a value exceeding $2,193,000. Hence, many estates end up being exempt from state filing requirements.
WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT DURING PROBATE?
Although sometimes complicated, probate follows predetermined steps and ends with the distribution of the decedent’s estate and the closing of their accounts. It begins when a loved one or the executor files a petition with the court to initiate probate proceedings.
When the court receives the petition, it will validate the will if there is one. Once validated, the court appoints the decedent’s personal representative or a close family member as the executor. The executor will then send notices to all parties interested in the estate, including beneficiaries, heirs, and creditors.
Once all interested parties have been notified of the probate proceedings, the executor will take a full inventory of the decedent’s estate and then begin distributing the assets of the deceased. Before heirs and beneficiaries get any assets, however, all debts and tax obligations will be settled.
HOW LONG DOES PROBATE TAKE?
How long probate takes varies from estate to estate. That said, the process can take anywhere from six months to a year or longer. Generally, the more complicated the estate, the longer probate will take. Factors that can complicate a probate process include will contestations and complex or unusual assets and debts.
In any case, the fastest time probate may be completed is four months, which is the time allotted to creditors to make claims against the estate once a notice of probate has been published in a newspaper and allowed to run for three weeks.
As you may imagine, the longer it takes for an estate to go through probate, the more probate will ultimately cost. For this reason, many individuals plan to avoid probate before passing by using pay-on-death accounts and living trusts.
However, as mentioned earlier, going through probate is often worth the cost to ensure the integrity of the asset distribution process and to honor the decedent’s wishes.
DO YOU HAVE QUESTIONS OR CONCERNS ABOUT THE COST OF PROBATE IN WASHINGTON STATE?
If you want to know how much probate costs, are wondering, “How much does it cost to probate a will in Washington state?” or have other similar concerns, consult with one of our probate law attorneys who can evaluate your situation, give you some options and suggest what might work for you and your family. For more information or to discuss your concerns about probate in Washington state, call our offices in Seattle at (206) 621-1110 or Tacoma at (253) 572-1000 today for your free consultation. We look forward to working with you.