How Do Small Estates (<$100,000) Get Settled?

If a decedent does not own real estate or require for some other reason that decedent’s estate be probated, and if the total estate of the decedent has a value of less than $100,000, then the personal property, including bank accounts, stock, bonds, vehicles, and tangible possessions of the decedent must be delivered to a person who claims to be the lawful successor of the decedent (that is, the rightful owner of the decedent’s property) if the successor creates an affidavit that states: 1) her name and address, 2) her claim to be decedent’s successor, 3) that decedent was a Washington resident on the date of his death, 4) that the decedent’s net estate is valued at less than $100,000, 5) that forty days have passed since the decedent died, 6) that no person has petitioned for appointment as decedent’s personal representative, 7) that all debts of decedent, including funeral and burial expenses have been paid, 8) that describes the personal property of decedent and the portion the successor claims, 9) that states the property described is subject to probate, 10) that the successor has given written notice by personal service or mail of her claim to all other potential successors of the decedent at least ten days before attempting to take control of the property claimed, and 11) that the successor is either entitled to all of the decedent’s property, or acts with written authorization from all successors on whose behalf she takes control of the decedent’s property.  The affidavit described authorizes government agencies to change title to personal property, such as vehicles.  A copy of the successor’s affidavit, including the decedent’s social security number, must be mailed to the State of Washington, Department of Social and Health Services, Office of Financial Recovery (which administers Washington’s Medicaid lien collections).  RCW 11.62.010.

Persons delivering property to a successor who present the successor’s affidavit are released from liability as though they had been dealing with the personal representative of the decedent’s estate.  If a person or entity possessing property of the decedent receives more than one such successor’s affidavit, that person or entity may implead (deposit with the court) the disputed property.  RCW 11.62.020.

A spouse or domestic partner of a decedent who deposited funds in a credit union can make an affidavit that the decedent has died and no personal representative has been appointed.  Upon presenting this affidavit to the credit union, the credit union shall pay to the spouse or domestic partner the decedent’s deposits in credit union, provided the sum does not exceed one thousand dollars.  RCW 11.62.030.