Probate Asset “Exceptions”:

  1. Statutory Exceptions
  2. Practical Exceptions

You have discovered that Decedent died owning:

  • No real property titled in his/her own name &
  • Personal property:
    • Titled in his/her own name and
    • Whose value does not exceed $100,000.

Problem:  How can you transfer title of this personal property to Decedent’s heirs or beneficiaries?

Washington and federal law expressly allows a very specific set of Probate Assets to be treated as Nonprobate Assets, allowing them to escape from the probate process.

A.  Statutory Exceptions

Some specific “probate assets” can be converted into “nonprobate assets” by specific statutory exceptions under Washington or federal law:

  1. Washington Law:
    1. Bank Accounts to $2,500:  RCW 30.22.109 provides that a financial institution may pay the balance of funds up to $2,500 in a deceased depositor’s account to the depositor’s surviving spouse or next of kin upon receipt of proof of death and an Affidavit or Declaration under Penalty of Perjury that no personal representative has been appointed for his/her estate.
    2. Credit Union Accounts to $1,000:  RCW 11.62.030 provides that a credit union may transfer the proceeds of a deceased member’s account up to $1,000 to the member’s surviving spouse upon the delivery of an Affidavit or Declaration under Penalty of Perjury that the member has died and no personal representative has been appointed for his/her estate.
    3. Unpaid Wages to $2,500:  RCW 49.48.120 provides that an employer may pay a deceased worker’s unpaid wages up to $2,500 to the worker’s surviving spouse (or children or parents, in that order) upon the delivery of an Affidavit or Declaration under Penalty of Perjury that the worker has died and no personal representative has been appointed for his/her estate.
    4. Social Security Benefits up to $1,000:  RCW 11.66.010 provides that upon a request within 30 days of Decedent’s death, Decedent’s final Social Security benefit of up to $1,000 may be paid to the surviving spouse (or children, or issue, or the State if Decedent was a resident of a state institution at death and owed the State at least as much as the amount of the benefit, or parents, in that order) upon the delivery of an Affidavit or Declaration under Penalty of Perjury that shows:
      1. The Decedent’s date of death,
      2. The relationship of the claimant to the Decedent,
      3. That no Personal Representative has been appointed or is anticipated to be appointed, and
      4. That the claimant has the highest priority among all possible claimants.
    5. Vehicles:  The Washington Department of Licensing will transfer the registration of a car or boat registered in Decedent’s name to any person who properly submits a Form TD-420-041: Affidavit of Inheritance/Litigation, stating that:
      1. Decedent left no estate necessitating administration,
      2. No Personal Representative has been appointed for his/her estate,
      3. The person submitting the form is rightfully entitled to the car or boat, and
      4. The Decedent’s debts have been paid or provided for.
  2. Federal Law:
    1. IRS Tax Refunds:  The IRS will send any refund due Decedent to any person who properly submits a Form 1310: Statement of Person Claiming Refund Due a Deceased Taxpayer in which the person states that he/she will apply the refund according to the laws of Decedent’s resident state and no personal representative has been appointed for Decedent’s estate.
    2. US Savings Bonds:  For the procedure for any specific bond, either

      1. Telephone the Seattle branch of the Federal Reserve Bank, at 206 343-3734, or
      2. Go to Treasury Securities & Programs.  For example, for EE or E Bonds, see: Death of a Savings Bond Owner.

Whatever nonprobate assets result from this “statutory conversion” should be able to pass at death with nothing more than what is required under the specific statutory exception.

B.  Practical Exceptions

If your probate asset cannot be “statutorily converted” into a non-probate asset under one of the foregoing exceptions, before putting more effort into the process, please call the relevant institution holding the asset and inquire how the asset may be transferred.  Some institutions have their own procedures and forms that they are familiar with, such that if you do it “their way with their procedures and forms,” they will willingly transfer the asset to you.

New bottom-line:  You have discovered that Decedent died owning:

  • No real property titled in his/her own name &
  • Personal property:
    • Titled in his/her own name and
    • Whose value does not exceed $100,000.
    • For which you cannot find a statutory exception &
    • For which the institution won’t make an exception, for example, if you use its own procedures and forms.

Solution:  You should be able to use a Small Estate Affidavit, which has only a few, limited, specific exceptions.

Small Estate Affidavit: Qualifications