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What happens if someone dies without a will in Washington?

On Behalf of | May 9, 2023 | Estate Planning |

Writing a will is a way for someone to make their wishes known regarding the distribution of their estate. However, some people might choose not to write a will due to the misconception that their belongings will pass seamlessly to their spouse.

When someone dies without a will, the law refers to them as dying intestate. It is important for individuals and families to fully understand what happens to a person’s estate if they die without a will in Washington.

Who inherits the estate if the deceased has no will?

Washington intestacy laws outline the distribution of the deceased’s estate depending on whether they have a surviving spouse, parents or any surviving issue such as a child or grandchild. If the deceased has:

  • a surviving spouse and any surviving issue, the spouse receives one-half of the separate estate with the other half going to the issue.
  • a surviving spouse and no issue, the spouse receives three-quarters of the separate estate with the remainder going to any surviving parents or siblings.
  • a surviving spouse and no other close relatives, the spouse receives the entirety of separate estate.

If the deceased has no surviving spouse, the estate passes to any surviving issue, parents or other issue of the decedent’s parents in that order.

Is there an alternative to writing a will?

If someone chooses not to write a will, it might be the case that they wish to avoid putting their family through the probate process. In this case, it may be best to instead pass on the estate through a trust so as to control the distribution of assets without the hassle of probate.

Choosing not to write a will rarely simplifies the matter of inheritance. Rather, it is better to have some form of estate planning in place via a will or trust.