Everyone dies, so it would make sense that everyone would take the time to plan ahead and at least create a will so that their assets and loved ones are protected. Unfortunately, most adults in Washington and across the country do not have wills. When these individuals die, what happens to their estates will be determined in probate court.
How does probate work when someone dies intestate? It starts by someone close to the decedent filing to open a probate case and asking to be the administrator. If everything is in order and there are no contests to this request, a judge may approve it, and the work can begin. If any other individuals come forward and fight that individual's request to be an administrator, it will be up to a judge to decide who will take on this role.
When an estate plan is not in place, the estate becomes subject to succession laws. This means that assets will be passed to the nearest relatives first and then distant relatives. If no relatives can be located, assets in the estate will become state property. It is the administrator's job to ensure debts and taxes are paid, property is passed on to the appropriate people and the estate is officially closed.
Probate with a will can be a confusing thing. Without a will, it can be even worse. Those who find themselves in the position of having to handle the estate of someone who died intestate can turn to legal counsel for assistance with getting it done right and in accordance with the laws of Washington State.