Not every estate will require a probate in the state of Washington. But if the deceased owned real property, unless they put it into a trust, or executed a Community Property Survivorship Agreement and died leaving a surviving spouse, it is necessary to probate the estate in order to transfer title to the real property.
It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally, I get a new client because they had tried to sell Mom or Dad’s, or Grandpa and Grandma’s real property, and had discovered that they didn’t have the authority to do so, because no one ever probated the estate…and now it is an emergency, because they have a buyer for the property. When this happens, we do what we can, but I sometimes have to urge caution, because sometimes, there can also be outstanding debts, which can create other problems in the probate process, and these problems will take on a greater degree of difficulty if the property is disposed of, and the proceeds are not sufficient, or are distributed before the creditor’s notice period has expired.
While there are sometimes reasons for probates to be delayed, they should not be delayed indefinitely, because people die, people move, and sometimes, people become incapacitated. If these people are nominated in the Will of the deceased to serve as the Personal Representative, or if there is no Will, and they are the surviving spouse, they may be favored by the Will or by statute to perform their duties in handling the deceased’s estate in ways that are less expensive than if someone else has to fulfill the role in their stead at a later date, if any other eligible person remains to do so at all. Taking care of these matters when your mind is clear and memory is fresh will be doing your family and friends a great service and will minimize the cost of taking care of your loved one’s final affairs, so that when the time comes, your loved ones will not have to probate two (or more) estates to properly distribute your estate to your heirs and beneficiaries.