In Washington State, a [last will and testament](https://legalbeagle.com/12716196-what-is-the-meaning-of-last-will-testament.html?ref=lz2020a) must be filed with a probate court, even if the decedent's estate, the estate of the person who died, will not be probated. However, if the estate will be probated, a decedent's last will and testament must be filed, along with a petition for probate/letters testamentary if you are named as executor in the decedent's will. If you are the custodian of the will, but not named as executor, you must file the will with the appropriate probate court or deliver the will to the individual named as executor within 30 days of obtaining knowledge of the decedent's death. If you are the custodian of the will and you are also named as executor, you must file the will with the appropriate probate court within 40 days of obtaining knowledge of the decedent's death. If the will is not filed within the statutorily mandated time frame, you may incur liability.
File the decedent's original will with the appropriate superior court's probate division. If you are filing the will alone, you will need to file it in the county of decedent's residence at death. However, as any Washington State superior court may oversee probate proceedings, regardless as to which county the decedent lived, you may file a petition for probate in any Washington State county. Proper venue may be the probate court located in the county where the decedent lived, the county where the executor lives or the county where most of the beneficiaries or creditors live. In other words, choose a location that is most convenient for all involved.
Read More: The Process of Opening an Estate
Obtain a copy of the decedent's death certificate, if necessary. Washington State law does not require that the person probating a will produce the decedent's death certificate. However, some judges may wish to review the death certificate, particularly if the decedent left a surviving spouse. You may wish to call the superior court and speak to the clerk of the court to find out whether filing a death certificate is necessary.
Fill out a case cover sheet and file it with the superior court, along with the will. King and Pierce counties require case cover sheets specific to each county; there is one uniform case cover sheet for all other counties throughout Washington State. You may obtain a case cover sheet for your particular county by visiting the superior court's website.
Fill out a petition for probate/letters testamentary if you are named as executor in the will; file it with the superior court. If you are not named as executor in the will, but you are the custodian of the will, you do not need to file a petition for probate/letters testamentary; this is the responsibility of the person named as executor. If you are merely the custodian of the will, you must still make sure you deliver the will to the person named as executor within 30 days of gaining knowledge of the decedent's death.
Pay the filing fees. Filing fees vary, depending on whether you are simply filing the will or you are filing the will along with a petition for probate/letters testamentary. Regarding filing fees, you may contact the superior court to inquire as to the specific amount.
If you have any questions regarding a death certificate, forms or fees, contact the clerk of the court where you plan to file the will.
- Washington State Probate: Washington Probate Instructions
- Washington State Probate: Obtaining a Certified Copy of Decedent's Death Certificate
- Washington State Legislature: RCW 11.20.010 - Duty of Custodian of Will - Liability
- Washington State Legislature: RCW 11.96A.050 - Venue in Proceedings Involving Probate or Trust Matters
- Washington State Probate: Procedure for Filing Decedent's Will
- Washington State Probate: King County Case Assignment Designation & Case Information Cover Sheet
- Washington State Probate: Filing Fees & Methods of Payment
- Washington State Legislature: RCW 36.18.020 - Clerk's Fees, Surcharges
Andrine Redsteer's writing on tribal gaming has been published in "The Guardian" and she continues to write about reservation economic development. Redsteer holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from the University of Washington, a Master of Arts in Native American studies from Montana State University and a Juris Doctor from Seattle University School of Law.