What is Probate?

Probate is a legal action pertaining to the affairs of a decedent.  When a decedent has ongoing affairs that require someone to be able to act on the decedent's behalf, a probate may be needed. If relevant, in a probate action, the court may decide which of decedent's various Wills is valid, who should be appointed personal representative, who are the decedent's heirs and legatees, and disputed issues.  RCW 11.20.020.

A probate may be filed in any county in Washington.   Under certain circumstances, the county in which probate matters are heard can be changed.  RCW 11.96A.050.

In the normal course of probate, the decedent's Will is filed with the court, the Personal Representative (executor) whom the decedent nominated is appointed and granted some powers, notice to creditors is given and after lapse of the notice period the creditors are paid, the decedent's property is inventoried with date of death values, disputes involving the decedent are settled, the decedent's and estate's tax returns are filed, the decedent's assets are distributed to the persons indicated in decedent's Will, and the estate is closed when all legal matters pertaining to the decedent have been wrapped up.  RCW 11, in many provisions.

If a decedent has affairs that might require the decedent's legal authority outside the State of Washington, a probate may need to be opened in the location of that matter.  Such a probate is called an "ancillary probate."