Joshua J. Bean, PLLC
4001 Main St, Suite 300
Vancouver, WA 98663
Telephone: (360) 695-3695
Fax: (360) 347-1446
Email: jbean@joshuabeanlaw.com

Joshua J. Bean, PLLC | Washington State Estate Planning: What Happens to My Property If I Die Without A Will?
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Frequently Asked Questions – Estate Planning

What happens to my property if I do not have a will?

For one reason or another, many people die without having a will or trust in place. This puts family and friends in a difficult spot – no one is sure what will happen with the property. And that is one important reason to have a will: it provides you with certainty.  Having a will is important to ensure that when you pass, your property and belongings go where you want them to. But approaching the estate planning process is often difficult, and many people do not like confronting questions of mortality.  And so, many people pass away with no will.  What happens to their property?  The property would be distributed according to the Revised Code of Washington.  This is called intestate succession.  This is what happens:

RCW 11.04.015 Descent and distribution of real and personal estate. The net estate of a person dying intestate, or that portion thereof with respect to which the person shall have died intestate, shall descend subject to the provisions of RCW 11.04.250 and 11.02.070, and shall be distributed as follows:

 

(1) Share of surviving spouse or state registered domestic partner. The surviving spouse or state registered domestic partner shall receive the following share:

 

(a) All of the decedent’s share of the net community estate; and

 

(b) One-half of the net separate estate if the intestate is survived by issue; or

 

(c) Three-quarters of the net separate estate if there is no surviving issue, but the intestate is survived by one or more of his or her parents, or by one or more of the issue of one or more of his or her parents; or (d) All of the net separate estate, if there is no surviving issue nor parent nor issue of parent.

 

(2) Shares of others than surviving spouse or state registered domestic partner. The share of the net estate not distributable to the surviving spouse or state registered domestic partner, or the entire net estate if there is no surviving spouse or state registered domestic partner, shall descend and be distributed as follows:

 

(a) To the issue of the intestate; if they are all in the same degree of kinship to the intestate, they shall take equally, or if of unequal degree, then those of more remote degree shall take by representation.

 

(b) If the intestate not be survived by issue, then to the parent or parents who survive the intestate.

 

(c) If the intestate not be survived by issue or by either parent, then to those issue of the parent or parents who survive the intestate; if they are all in the same degree of kinship to the intestate, they shall take equally, or, if of unequal degree, then those of more remote degree shall take by representation.

 

(d) If the intestate not be survived by issue or by either parent, or by any issue of the parent or parents who survive the intestate, then to the grandparent or grandparents who survive the intestate; if both maternal and paternal grandparents survive the intestate, the maternal grandparent or grandparents shall take one-half and the paternal grandparent or grandparents shall take one-half.

 

(e) If the intestate not be survived by issue or by either parent, or by any issue of the parent or parents or by any grandparent or grandparents, then to those issue of any grandparent or grandparents who survive the intestate; taken as a group, the issue of the maternal grandparent or grandparents shall share equally with the issue of the paternal grandparent or grandparents, also taken as a group; within each such group, all members share equally if they are all in the same degree of kinship to the intestate, or, if some be of unequal degree, then those of more remote degree shall take by representation.

 

RCW 11.04.015

 

Did you catch that?  Basically, if you were married, your surviving spouse would get all of your community property and part of your separate estate, depending whether you have children or parents still living.  If you died without a spouse, then your property will be divided between your children, parents, siblings, or descendants according to how the legislature sees fit.  It can be a bit confusing.  But even worse, you don’t have any say in the process.

 

Drafting a will – no matter how simple – will help remove the uncertainty from distributing your property when you pass.  In other words, it gives you a say.  To discuss your estate plan, or to ask any questions you might have about wills in Washington State, give us a call at 360-695-3695.  We look forward to helping you plan your estate so it passes according to your wishes.

 

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