Washington State Inheritance Laws Explained

The loss of a loved one is heartbreaking and can leave the family with a multitude of questions. Trying to figure out all of Washington State inheritance laws is the last thing you want to think about. This guide will walk you through the inheritance laws in Washington state and answer those pressing questions.

What are the next steps?

How do we manage the estate?

Who inherits what?

Washington Inheritance Laws When a Will Is Involved

The best scenario is to have a will drawn up with an attorney’s help to ensure that all assets are allocated according to the decedent’s wishes. It is recommended that the testator, the writer of the will, name an executor of the estate, the person who will see that the decedent’s wishes are followed after their passing. Once the will is drafted, it must be signed in front of two witnesses and a public notary. After the decedent’s passing, it is required by Washington state law that the will be filed with the court in the county in which they passed away. These stipulations must be met for the will to be considered “testate” or valid.

Estate Value Determines If Probate Is Necessary

If the decedent was the sole owner of real property or had more than $100,000 in personal property, a probate proceeding will most likely need to be filed.

A probate court proceeding is an administrative process where the decedent’s assets are transferred to the people who will inherit them. When an estate is valued at less than $100,000, an heir can submit an affidavit to the court stating that they’ve inherited a particular asset. The executor of the estate can also petition the court to manage the estate without supervision. The court may allow this if the estate has more assets than debts, also known as being “solvent.” In these cases, probate may be avoided.

Asset Allocation Exceptions In Washington

Typically, a decedent may allocate their assets however they wish in a will, but there are a few exceptions under Washington state law. Because Washington is a community property state, if a decedent was married to a spouse, they will inherit half of the community property assets such as a home or bank account.

The other half of the community property assets may be given to anyone the decedent chooses. A spouse or heir is still entitled to their share of the estate, even if the will does not specifically allocate assets to them. This share of assets would be equal to what the spouse or heir would receive if the decedent did not have a will. The only time the court would grant an exception to this rule is if evidence shows the omission was not an error. If the heir dies without evidence that they survived the decedent by at least five days, they will not inherit their portion of the estate.

Washington Inheritance Laws When a Will Is NOT Involved

When a decedent passes without making a will, the court will allocate the assets through intestate succession. The court will appoint an executor who, ideally, has background knowledge of the family and the estate to allocate assets to the appropriate parties. During this process, the decedent’s spouse will inherit all communal property. Depending on whether the decedent has surviving children or parents, the spouse can inherit one half or the entirety of the deceased’s separate property.

What Is Considered Separate Property?

Separate property is property owned by only one spouse. Most married couples combine assets and don’t have individual property, but here is a list of what is generally considered separate property:

  • Property that spouses agree in writing is individual through a post-nuptial agreement.
  • Gifts received before or during the marriage by one spouse.
  • Property owned by one spouse before marriage
  • Inheritances received by one spouse before or during a marriage.
  • Property that was acquired under one spouse’s name that was not used for the benefit of the marriage or the other spouse

Who Inherits The Rest Of The Estate?

What remains of the estate, or the entirety if there is no spouse, will be divided equally among the children of the decedent. In the case that there are no children, the estate will be allocated to the parents and then the siblings if the parents are not surviving.

Assets not included in intestate succession are:

  • Life insurance benefits
  • IRA, 401(k), or other retirement funds
  • Transfer-on-death account securities
  • Bank accounts payable-on-death
  • Property that has been transferred to a living trust
  • Property owned in joint tenancy

What Taxes Must Be Paid

There is no inheritance tax in Washington; however, there are estate taxes at both the state and federal level to consider. At the federal level, estates valued at over $11.58 million can be taxed at a rate of up to 40%. The details of what assets are to be included in these calculations, finding their value, and determining the tax rate can be found in IRS Form 706. According to Washington State inheritance laws, if the estate is valued at more than $2.193, then the executor of the estate must file a state estate tax return within nine months of the decedent’s passing. If a federal estate tax return was filed, this must be included when filing the state estate tax return. You can find more information in this guide from the Washington State Department of Revenue.

What To Consider When You Inherit Property in Washington

When you inherit a piece of real estate, all the associated costs of that property become your responsibility. This includes the maintenance costs, utilities, yearly property taxes, home insurance, and any applicable HOA fees. You have the option of making the inherited property your primary residence and selling your current home, but that comes with its own costs. The process of selling a home can include realtor fees, listing fees, and closing costs, among others.

Choosing To Sell The Inherited Property

Another option is to sell the inherited property, which can incur costs similar to those if you were to sell your current home. The home may also need repairs before you can sell it, and they can become expensive. If you choose to sell the property through a realtor, the home needs to be appraised first and then must sell for at least 90% of the appraised value. A 10% deposit will be required in the buyer’s offer, which will be subjected to confirmation by the court. The executor, along with their probate attorney, will then submit a statement to the court to confirm the sale. Once all parties agree, a future date will be set for the court to finalize the sale. When the offer is accepted, a Notice of Proposed Action will be mailed to all heirs. They will have 15 days to pose any objections upon review of the notice. If no objections are posed, the sale can proceed without a court hearing.

Selling The Property As-Is

If selling your current home or inherited property is not the best option for you, there is an alternative. You can sell the house as-is to a cash buyer like Kind Home Buyers. Using this option, you can sell the home without paying for a relator or the costs of repairing the property. You’ll receive a cash offer after the property has been inspected, taking into consideration the cost of potential repairs and what the house can be sold for after those repairs are made.

Can You Sell a Property In Probate?

Whether or not a property can be sold outside of, or during, probate depends on a few stipulations. First and foremost, it is up to the estate executor to ensure that all of the estate’s debts have been settled. The selling of property may be necessary to pay creditors that have been notified by the court of the decedent’s passing.

Who Can Sell Inherited Property?

In Washington, the surviving spouse can sell the inherited property without going through probate according to the community property law. You can also avoid probate if you inherited the house through joint tenancy with survivorship rights or if you are the recipient of a transfer-on-death deed. You will most likely have to wait for probate to be concluded outside of these exceptions before the property can be sold. Because probate can be a lengthy and complicated process, it is always a good idea to speak with a real estate expert with probate experience. 

What To Do Next

When it comes to inheritance laws, it is always best to consult an expert to go over all the available options. This guide touched on many Washington state inheritance laws‘ intricacies, but if you have any further questions, please reach out to a licensed attorney in your area. If you have a property that you’ve inherited and wish to sell, contact us at Kind Home Buyers by calling (253) 216-2497 or by submitting the short form below. You can go from an offer to cash-in-hand in as little as 10-14 days.

Give us a call anytime at (253) 216-2497 or
fill out the form on this website today. >>


Keith is a real estate investor and entrepreneur who truly enjoys helping others. He grew up in Washington where he graduated from UW with degrees in marketing and economics. Besides flipping houses, Keith enjoys cycling, and hiking the Pacific Northwest with his fiancee Amanda and their golden retriever Aioli.

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