Whenever a person dies, their estate needs to be collected, managed, and distributed. Estate administration involves gathering the assets of the estate, paying the decedent's debts, and distributing the assets that remain in the estate.
In recent years, state legislatures have attempted to reduce the complexity of estate administration. Currently, about 20 states have adopted some version of the Uniform Probate Code (UPC), which was designed to simplify the estate administration process and provide similarity among probate laws from state to state.
The first task in a probate proceeding is appointing a responsible party to manage the estate. This person is usually called the Personal Representative. In some states, this position is known as the "Executor." The PR may be an individual or a company, such as a bank. The PR may have been nominated by the decedent in their Will. If there was no Will, the court will usually appoint the surviving spouse or another family member.
After being appointed, the PR is expected to inventory all of the decedent's assets. The PR must also inform the decedent's creditors that the decedent has died. If the decedent's probate assets are sufficient to pay the creditors, the PR will pay them from the estate. If the probate assets are insufficient, the PR may need to obtain court approval to determine which creditors should be paid.
If there are any assets left after the creditors have been paid, those assets are distributed according to the Will. If there is no Will, the decedent is said to have died "intestate." State laws vary as to how to distribute the assets of an intestate decedent.
The PR will also file any necessary tax returns. If the estate is owed any money, the PR may need to bring a lawsuit in order to collect it. If the Will is contested, or if there is any other dispute over how to distribute the estate assets, the PR may have to "defend" the Will in court.
If you have questions about the probate process in Washington or Idaho, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to see how we can be of service.