Recent Washington Legislative Update concerning Estate Planning and Probate – Part 3

Emily Y. Tyson-Shu Edmonds Lawyer

Have you ever wondered whether and how much you are entitled to from your deceased spouse’s estate if they have left little or nothing to you? As a surviving spouse (or a surviving state registered partner, or a surviving dependent child), you are entitled to an award for family support, which is also called basic award under Chapter 11.54 RCW.  A new bill (ESSB 5589) concerning the basic award in probate has been enacted during this Washington Legislative Session in 2024 and will take effect on August 1, 2024. 

As a surviving spouse, you are statutorily entitled to a certain amount from the estate of your deceased spouse (or deceased state registered partner, or deceased parent).  You, as a surviving spouse, may petition the court to claim this basic award.  The amount for the basic award is tied to the decedent’s homestead exemption value.

The statutory amount for the basic award has been through many changes in the past years:

  • Prior to 2021, the value for the basic award was $125,000.00.
  • Post 2021, the value for the basic award has been changed to the greater of $125,000.00 or the county median sale price of a single-family home in the preceding calendar year.
  • Starting on August 1, 2024, the value of the basic award will be the greater of the value of the decedent’s homestead exemption or $125,000.00 adjusted by inflation factor. 

The new law is meant to refine the judicial process to reflect the legislative intent for keeping Washington residents in their homes. The statutory language in the 2021 version (i.e. the soon-to-expire version) is subject to multiple interpretations and has hence created ambiguity in practice. The new law was therefore enacted to clarify the value for the basic award and establish a procedure for the decedent’s surviving spouse (or surviving state registered partner or surviving dependent child) to request the award for family support.

If your late spouse has left little or nothing to you, you may want to consult with legal counsel and evaluate whether you are eligible to petition the court for the award of family support. Source: Washington State Legislature. (as of March 21, 2024)

To learn more about Recent Washington Legislative Update concerning Estate Planning and Probate, please contact Beresford Booth at or by phone at (425) 776-4100

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