What is Probate?
- Probate – the legal process whereby the court verifies the will as authentic and declares it valid, as well as going through the necessary steps of verifying the executor (person named to manage the estate of the deceased), identifying and valuing property, paying debts and taxes, and distributing assets.
Probate comes from the Latin for “to prove.” It also applies to the administration of the estate of a decedent who did not leave a valid will.
Verifying that the will is legally valid is obviously critical. Without a valid will, the court must distribute assets according to the intestacy laws of Washington State. There are three elements that must be met in order to validate a will:
- The will has been signed and is otherwise correct in form; and is the most current version of the will.
- The creator was legally competent to make a will: being a person of sound mind [link to legal definition here?] who was at least 18 years old (or a legally emancipated minor) at the time of signing.
- The will is lawful: i.e., has been witnessed by at least two competent disinterested witnesses who attached their names to the document in the presence of the creator, at the creator’s request, and who confirmed and the will was not made by mistake, under duress, fraud, undue influence, or forgery.
The court also will verify that the executor of the estate is capable of being authorized by the court to collect and maintain property, pay debts, and distribute assets to the beneficiaries. In Washington State, an individual is disqualified from serving as an executor for certain reasons, including the conviction of a felony or of a crime of moral turpitude [RCW 11.36.010].