Your Legacy Matters


frequently asked questions

Probate F.A.Q.

Probate is weird. Most people don’t even know what it is. And it’s often something you only have to do once, maybe twice, in your lifetime. We work with lots of executors every year to help navigate this weird process and have identified several questions that our clients frequently asked. Here are our short and sweet answers to these questions.

What is probate?

The easiest way to understand probate is like this: it is the legal process to get assets out of a dead person’s name and into the names of the beneficiaries of the estate. The court is necessarily involved because the court appoints an executor of the estate to be the legal representative for the deceased person.

Is probate required?

State law does require probate just because someone has died but it is likely that an estate with more than $100,000 and/or real estate will have to go through probate to be distributed to the beneficiaries of the estate.

Why do I have to go to court if a Will appoints me as Executor?

Technically speaking, the Will simply nominates an executor it does not appoint an executor. The court appoints the executor after a quick background check and consideration of the Will and any other relevant circumstances.

I thought a Will meant you didn’t have to go through probate?

This is a common misconception and is not true. The good news is that a Will typically makes probate a lot easier.

Is probate expensive?

It varies. A simple probate typically costs about $3,500 to get done, but it can be a lot more or a lot less than this. The variables that make it more expensive include: if there isn’t a Will, if the family doesn’t get along, or if the deceased person’s property is disorganized.

Are inheritances taxed?

In Washington State, inheritances are tax-free to the beneficiaries. If the total value of an estate is over $2,193,000, the estate may have to pay an estate tax to the state of Washington before making distributions to the beneficiaries.

I’m the Executor . . . is there a timeline during which I should be doing something?

There is a state law that requires a Will to be filed with the court within a certain number of days after a person’s death, but – practically speaking – this is something that doesn’t usually happen that quickly and that is usually OK. We recommend you begin the probate process within a month, or so, of someone’s death.

I paid for the memorial – can I be reimbursed?

Absolutely! Reasonable expenses related to a memorial should be paid by the estate. As soon as the estate has access to the deceased person’s bank accounts, we can look to reimburse those types of expenses.

Do I need a lawyer?

Not necessarily, but you probably want one. We know that our clients are smart enough to do this on their own but we also know our clients are also very busy people who don’t really want to learn the ins-and-outs of probate. We analogize it to getting someone to fix your car or install a new circuit breaker in your house. You could probably do it, with YouTube, Google, and a lot of help from clever buddies but . . . do you want to? Also, with a lawyer, you know you’ve done it the right way and it won’t come back to bite you later!

Can I be executor if I live in a different state?

Totally. Most of our clients are out-of-state.

How long does probate take?

A typical probate usually lasts anywhere between 4 months to 1 year.

How long does it take to get appointed as Executor by the court?

We can get a probate opened in a few days but it can take up to a month, depending on the circumstances.

Do I have to pay for everything myself?

Typically, the estate will pay all expenses related to the administration of the estate, including attorneys’ fees, taxes, accountants’ fees, memorial expenses, etc. It may be that you have to advance expenses on behalf of the estate and you should keep track of these expenses to ensure they are reimbursed by the estate once the estate has access to the deceased person’s bank accounts, etc.

Your Legacy Matters


The Narrows Law Group is a Tacoma law firm located in the heart of Old Town providing advice and representation in the areas of estate planning, probate, domestic relations, and adoptions.

We are now taking appointments at our new second office in Gig Harbor!

Let us help you find legal solutions tailored to fit your needs.

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Tacoma Office: Mon-Fri 8:30-4:30

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