When someone dies their debts, taxes, and the costs of administrating their estate are required to be paid before any gifts or bequests may be distributed. If the estate distribution plan is simple and the assets far exceed the debts this is a simple process. However, if the estate contains a lots of specific gifts and/or debts are high, the executor must decide in what order property will be used to pay for the debts, taxes, and costs. The priority in which the assets are used is known as "abatement." Washington has a statute the spells out the order in which these assets are to be used and it covers both assets passing through a formal probate and assets transferred through beneficiary designations, trusts or other non-probate process. The rules in the statute can be changed by the terms of the Decedent's will or trust as long as they still allow all debts, taxes, and costs to be paid.
The rules of abatement can be complicated and don't always match the expectations of families. Before assets are used to pay debts, a Trustee or Personal Representative in Washington should consult with an attorney to make sure that they are using the right assets. Abatement is the source of a number of probate disputes and mistakes can lead to unnecessary expense and conflict and even result in personal liability for the Trustee or Personal Representative.
If you have questions about Abatement, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (206) 459-1908.