- The probate is opened through a collection of documents: petition, the oath of the petitioner, the Will if there is one, a death certificate, and an order approved by a judge.
- Official notices are sent to heirs and beneficiaries, either those listed in a Will, and/or those who will inherit by law with the lack of a Will.
- Official notices are also sent to government agencies like the Washington State Department of Health Services and the IRS.
- Notice is sent to known creditors and published to inform unknown creditors.
- An inventory of the estate is made noting the kinds of significant assets present and their value, as well as what debts there are.
- Any claims from creditors are paid.
- Any bequests in the form of specific amounts allotted in the will, are distributed.Taxes are paid.
- The remaining value of the estate is divided among recipients named in the Will, or if there is no will, divided among the family who inherit under the law.
- The probate is closed.
Most probates last between five and twelve months. Probates that last longer than six months usually so do because there is real estate that is taking a long time to prepare for market and sell or because we are waiting on information to file the final tax returns.
At Phinney Estate Law we work with clients through every step of this process. Usually clients never need to go to court and most of the work can be done by phone, mail, or email. We offer all potential clients a free ½ hour consultation to help them determine if a probate is necessary and talk in some detail about what that process might look like for their case. Some clients choose to do a lot of the work for steps 4 to 9 fairly independently, only looking to us to help when they have questions or needs forms. This can give the client a high level of control and also save on legal costs. Others prefer to have us do the bulk of the work because they are busy, emotionally overwhelmed, or simply hate this kind of paperwork. We are happy to work with clients in whatever way is best for them while still making sure they get the legal help they need to avoid errors that could get them into trouble down the road.