A personal representative, sometimes called an executor, is the person who manages the affairs and arranges for the final disposition of all probate assets, debts, and other property after someone dies. It can be a challenging job to help someone you loved fulfill his final wishes. But it may help some people with the healing process by providing a means of closure to the relationship. If you’ve agreed to be a personal representative, there are some important things to know about the process.
Becoming a Personal Representative to a Washington Estate
If you’ve been named as the personal representative for an estate, it needs to be stated in the will of the decedent (the person who died). A will must be filed with the County Clerk’s Office within 40 days, and that duty typically falls to the named representative. Along with filing the Petition for Probate of Will, you will need to petition for Letters Testamentary and Nonintervention Powers, the legal documents that grant you the power to act on behalf of the estate. These petitions are your first responsibilities as personal representative, and must be done before any other estate matters can be settled.
When you file the petitions, the court will make sure you are willing and able to perform the duties of a personal representative. You must meet certain minimum legal requirements in order to take the job. The Revised Code of Washington (RCW 11.36.010) contains restrictions for being a personal representative, including if you:
- Are a minor (under the age of 18)
- Are not mentally capable of the job (of unsound mind)
- Have been convicted of a felony or any crime of moral turpitude
Provided that you consent to being a representative and meet the requirements, the court will respond with the right paperwork for you to begin administrating the estate.
How to Begin Administrating an Estate in Washington
After you’ve received approval from the courts, your biggest task may be to discover all the assets that the decedent possessed, and then create an inventory. This can be challenging, and Washington law only grants three months before you must submit an inventory to the court. This inventory should include items such as:
- Cash and bank accounts
- Real property (real estate, such as a home)
- Insurance policies
- Personal property of substantial value (cars, boats, books, art)
Additionally, your inventory should also include named objects that are to be given to a specific person or party, as well as separate property and community property. You should work closely with your attorney to make sure that you have correctly accounted for everything that’s legally required in an inventory.
The inventory must also have a value for every item. It’s critical to ensure that the valuation is correct, as it can greatly impact any estate taxes due. You may want to hire a professional appraiser to help you; the cost can be paid for from the estate.
Further Steps in Administrating the Estate
After you complete the inventory, you may choose to file it with the court, although you’re not required to by law. Then, you need to pay any estate taxes owed. Note that the threshold for filing estate taxes in Washington is $2,000,000. If the gross estate is under this amount, then no state filing is required.
After the taxes are managed, you’ll need to pay any debts that the estate owes. This also typically involves issuing what’s called a Probate Notice to Creditors, which provides a limited window of time for any unknown creditors to come forward. This notice must be filed with the court and published in the newspaper within thirty days of your appointment. Filing the notice is often done on the same trip as your confirmation appointment with the court to save time.
After the notice has been published for three consecutive weeks, you may then file for an “Affidavit of Publication.” Some newspapers may even take care of this for you and send you a copy, but check with the publisher for the specific policy.
Finally, after all debts are settled and paid, the remaining assets of the estate can be distributed to the beneficiaries.
Legal Help for Personal Representatives
Managing an estate is a complex process. An estate planning and probate attorney will be able to help you with the process, including minimizing costs that can eat away at the estate’s assets and making sure that heirs receive their rightful inheritances as fast as possible.
If you have questions about your situation as a personal representative and would like legal help, the attorneys at the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny are here to assist you. Call or email us to arrange a private consultation with an experienced estate planning and probate attorney in our Bellevue office today.