What If I Die Without A Will In Washington State?

Matt Cruz Attorney LawyerWhat happens to my estate in Washington State if I die without having executed a Last Will and Testament?

When someone dies without having executed a valid Last Will and Testament, they are said to have died intestate (without a Will).  I am frequently asked whether dying without a Will means your Estate will be distributed to the State of Washington – the answer is “no.”  Dying without a Will merely means your estate will be distributed according to state law.  In this sense, everyone “has a Will”, some by separate instrument and some by state law.

When someone dies without a Will, the process is generally the same as when someone dies with a Will.  First, all of the Decedent’s assets must be gathered (put into the possession of lawful successors or a Court appointed Administrator.  Second, all of the Creditors must be identified and paid in full, paid a negotiated amount, or paid a pro-rata share of the Estate assets in the event the Estate is insolvent (insolvency occurs when Decedent’s debts exceed asset value).

In the case of a solvent intestate estate, after all creditors have been paid, the remaining Estate assets (the “net Estate”) are then distributed according to a distribution scheme set forth in RCW 11.04.015, which generally provides as follows:

            Generally, RCW 11.04.015 directs the distribution of the net intestate estate as follows:

  1. To your surviving spouse or registered domestic partner: all of the Decedent’s interest in community property (both real and personal) and one-half (50%) of the Decedent’s net separate estate if the Decedent is survived by natural or adopted children who receive the other one-half (50%) of the Decedent’s separate estate.

If the Decedent is not survived by natural or adopted children, then the surviving spouse receives three-quarters (75%) of the Decedent’s net separate estate and one-quarter (25%) of the Decedent’s net separate Estate is distributed to surviving parents or natural born or adopted siblings.

If the Decedent is not survived by parents or natural born or adopted siblings, the surviving spouse will receive all community property and all of the Decedent’s separate property as well.

Intestate Distribution when there is no surviving spouse or registered domestic partner:  Generally, when a person dies leaving no surviving spouse, registered domestic partner or natural or adopted children, his or her estate is distributed in differing percentages to the Decedent’s nearest surviving blood relative.

Dying without a Will means you are accepting the distribution scheme set forth in state law.  In the event you prefer to distribute your estate differently, you should execute a Will or other appropriate estate planning instrument (ie. a trust).  We stand prepared to assist you with all of your estate planning needs.

BERESFORD BOOTH PLLC has made this content available to the general public for informational purposes only. The information on this site is not intended to convey legal opinions or legal advice.