Is Probate Required by Washington Law?

Washington law:

  • Does not require probate, but
  • Does require any Will to be filed with the Court within at most 40 days of death.
  • Probate:  Washington law does NOT require a probate proceeding to be filed following death, regardless of whether the Decedent died with or without a Will (ie, testate or intestate, respectively).  Probate in Washington is entirely discretionary, and probably only a few percent of deaths in Washington result in a probate being filed.  In Washington, if a probate is filed, it is because someone wants it to be filed, NOT because the law requires it.

    By far, the most common reason for probate is that the Decedent died holding:

    • Any real property titled in his or her own name, or
    • Personal property (usually a cash or securities account) titled in his or her own name whose value exceeds $100,000.

Note:  “Titled in his or her own name” means that the property is a “probate asset” and not a “non-probate asset,” which passes “outside of probate,” without Court involvement.  Typical nonprobate assets are assets:

  • Held in Joint Tenancy (with Right of Survivorship) form.
  • Subject to a Community Property Agreement between Decedent and his/her surviving spouse.
  • Having death beneficiary designations, such as Payable- or Transferable-on-Death accounts, life insurance policies, IRAs, or Keogh or other pension plans.
  • Held by Decedent’s Living Trust.
  • Will:  Washington law, however, does require any last Will of a Washington resident Decedent to be filed promptly following death.  Regardless of whether or not it or Decedent’s estate will be probated, the Will should be filed with the Clerk’s Office of the Superior Court of Decedent’s resident county at death, generally within 40 days of Decedent’s death.


  1. If Decedent died with a Will, you will need to file it with the Court promptly.
  2. If Decedent died owning in his or her own name either real property of whatever value or personal property whose value exceeds $100,000 as of Decedent’s date of death, you will likely need a probate to clear title to that property (ie, remove the Decedent’s name from its title and replace it with the names of his/her heirs or beneficiaries).
  3. If, however, you have discovered that Decedent died owning:
    1. No real property titled in his/her own name &
    2. Personal property titled in his/her name whose value does not exceed $100,000 …

    Then you should be able to transfer its title without a probate & Court involvement.


  1. First, see if the asset qualifies for a specific exception; if not,
  2. Use a Small Estate Affidavit for its transfer.