Probate Process

List of Steps (generally)*


1. Find Probate Attorney, schedule meeting

2. Gather preliminary documents

  • All Estate Planning documents (Wills, Trusts, Amendments, Community Property agreements, etc.
  • Death Certificate
  • Send (via fax or email) to attorney

3. Secure Estate

  • Lock up and secure the assets of the estate

4. Meet with Probate Attorney

If probate is necessary, take steps to open a probate case with the appropriate Court

  • Your Probate Lawyer will take care of this for you.

5. Keep Excellent Records of Everything

  • This includes any funds spent by the Executor / Personal Representative

6. Notify various government agencies of Probate

  • This includes the IRS, WA Dept of Social and Human Service, and others as necessary

7. Open Estate Bank Account

  • You will need an IRS “EIN” for this. Your Probate Attorney will take care of having this number issued for you.
  • Conduct all transactions regarding the estate assets, debts, taxes, expenses, etc. through this account

8. Notify estate beneficiaries and heirs as necessary

  • You will discuss this with you Probate Lawyer.
  • Generally, all known heirs and any beneficiaries must be notified off the probate matter (before and/or after the case is opened)

9. Continue gathering information, documentation

  • Keep list of creditors, debts that need to be paid (but do not pay them right away)

10. Notify Creditors / Potential Creditors of Probate Matter

  • May require notification via publication

11. Begin Inventory of Estate Assets

  • Use a spread-sheet or other organized way of keeping these assets listed and accounted for.
  • Do not begin giving things away, or otherwise disposing of any estate assets just yet.

12. Make estimate of whether WA and/or Federal Estate Taxes will be paid

  • If estate taxes are expected, then begin planning for this.
  • Retain CPA

13. Value the Estate

  • If necessary, arrange for appraisals

14. Complete the Inventory of the Estate

  • Do this no later than 90 days after the Probate case is opened.

15. Sell any estate assets as required

  • Be sure to do this in coordination with the Probate Lawyer

16. Resolve any issues with creditors, as necessary

  • Discuss with your Probate Lawyer
  • Involve Courts if necessary

17. Pay known, documented debts

  • Make certain this is done in coordinated fashion with Probate Attorney.

18. Pay all taxes

  • State taxes
  • Federal taxes

19. Determine how the distributions to heirs / beneficiaries will be accomplished

  • Again, this should be planned and accomplished in full coordination with your Probate Attorney.

20. Transfer Real Property

  • Arrange any required real estate transfers with the Probate Attorney.

21. Resolve any Distribution / Shares of Estate Issues

  • If any issues regarding Distributions among Beneficiaries / heirs, resolve.
  • Involve Court if necessary

22. Close Probate Matter

  • After all estate administrative costs, debts, taxes are paid
  • All property is distributed to heirs / beneficiaries in accordance with the Will or the Washington State intestacy laws, as required.

*Note: This is meant to be a simple list of the requirements in step-by-step form, but there could be more or less steps / requirements, depending on the circumstances of the particular probate estate. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and should not be used as such.