Probate 101 – How to Open a Washington State Probate

To start the probate process, an executor needs to file several different documents. These documents include: a Death Certificate, an Original Will (if there is one), Oath of Executor, Petition for Probate, and a Proposed Order to Open Probate. Some of these documents might be slightly different if your loved one did not have a will.  In some cases, an executor may also be required to obtain a bond, which is a type of insurance policy.

If your loved one left a will, the will should identify who they wished to be responsible for their estate. If the person identified in the will cannot, or does not want to, act as Executor, or your loved one did not leave a will, several different people have the right open the Probate and become in charge of the estate. The people who have the highest priority in becoming Estate Administrator are: the surviving spouse, children, parents or decedent, siblings, then grandparents.  Even someone that the deceased person owed money to can open probate of their estate if no family members step up to begin that process.

If your loved one had a Will, finding the original of the Will is important. The court will not normally accept a copy of the Will to start the probate process.  In the event you cannot locate the original Will, you might consider consulting a qualified probate attorney to help you explore your options for finding the original, or asking the court to accept a copy instead.

The procedure for presenting your petition involves going before a court commissioner, this is usually in an open civil or pro se case in the court calendar, and presenting him with all of the required documents. If the commissioner determines everything is in order they will then sign your order to open probate and grants your petition.

You can then file your case with the court clerk and pay your filing fee to open the probate. Waiting to file until after your order has been signed allows you to avoid having to file additional petitions if the commissioner finds something wrong, and filing with a signed order allows you to immediately receive your Letters of Testamentary or Letters of Administration. After you pay our filing fee your case will be assigned a judge, the Judge is then responsible for hearing any controversy that requires a court order during the Probate, and is the one who will be overseeing your Administration of the Estate.

Probate can be overwhelming.  If you have questions about the process of opening a probate or need help getting started, Limitless Law is here to help.  Give us a call at (360) 685-0145 to find out more about probate and how an attorney can help make the process easier.