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What You Need to Know About Wills & Real Estate December 18, 2019

Central Whidbey Island, Island
What You Need to Know About Wills & Real Estate, Central Whidbey Island, Washington

For many, wills concern real estate, among other sizable assets. Property or properties get transferred to the family upon the owner’s passing, with some assets requiring probate court proceedings in light of their value or other issues, such as unpaid taxes. Here, review information about wills and real estate in Washington State before discussing asset distribution with an attorney.

Sole Ownership

In real estate, sole ownership is known as “fee simple absolute.” Probate court, or the legal process of distributing a deceased person’s assets to family members while settling any debts and taxes, is usually required for transferring real estate to beneficiaries. If there is no will, the state court will determine who inherits the property.

And while probate court isn’t mandatory in Washington, it is recommended. Probate proceedings resolve real estate transfers worth more than $100,000, as well as any disputes, such as wanting to challenge liens against the estate. Washington state laws also require filing wills with the court within 40 days of the owner’s passing to avoid delays and other estate transfer issues.

Joint Ownership

willsJoint ownership refers to property owned by two or more people. It comes with rights of survivorship, or without. If rights of survivorship are in place, the surviving property owner becomes the sole owner who can do what they wish with the estate. Probate proceedings are not needed; however, the now-sole owner must fill out paperwork that states the property is in their name only.

If no rights of survivorship are included, the property has “tenants in common,” or individuals who own percentages of the estate. Partial owners can pass their property percentages on to their beneficiaries in their last testaments, which requires probate in Washington to complete the transfer. Probate is also necessary in the Evergreen State for community property agreements or those between married couples.

Washington recognizes written wills created by people over the age of 18 who sign the documents along with two or more objective witnesses. State courts also recognize holographic testaments, or those proven to be written by the deceased person’s hand, but does not accept oral, audiotaped, or videotaped versions. 


Create your will with assistance from McPherson & McPherson Attorneys at Law, the Coupeville, WA-based family law firm serving the region since 1997. The team charges by the hour, so you only pay for the time dedicated to your case. Call (360) 678-4407 today to schedule a consultation or learn more about family law practice areas online, including child custody and support. 

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