Over the course of a person’s life, a great number of possessions are accumulated. Upon that person’s death, those possessions, from the tiniest keepsake to the largest piece of land, become part of his or her estate. The process of discovering, collecting and managing those pieces of property are known as estate administration. Washington has its own probate laws, as do other states, and these laws must be adhered to during the administration process. The person who performs the estate administration is typically known as an executor or administrator.
The executor, after discovering and collecting all of the deceased’s property, is responsible for distributing it. If there is a will, then all of the heirs of the estate will be clearly named. The executor makes sure that any debts that the deceased had are paid from the estate, and that the entitled parties receive their part. In most cases, the executor is named in the will. If there is no will, the probate court will appoint an administrator, who will be paid a fee from the estate.
In some cases, there may not be enough money in the estate to pay all of the deceased’s debts. In such a case, the debt is usually erased upon the person’s death. Beneficiaries, including relatives, do not usually have to pay any of those debts unless they benefited a great deal from the debt. Some examples are debts left to a spouse in a marriage and debts left to those with a joint account with the deceased.
It is always in the best interest of a person and his or her family to have the basics of one’s estate distribution worked out prior to death. Contacting an estate planning attorney can save the estate a great deal of money, and help assure that the estate’s assets are distributed in the way that the client chooses. In Washington, estate planning lawyers can guide the client through every step of estate administration and probate, and make the transition much easier on the client’s loved ones when the time comes.
Source: findlaw.com, “Estate Administration Basics“, Accessed on April 17, 2017