How to Sell a House in Probate: Washington State
Are you thinking about selling a house in probate or an inherited house in Seattle, Tacoma, or anywhere in Washington State?
Probate property sales are complexities that traditional home sales lack. – Learn and understand the process to inherit property the correct way.
This article walks through all the issues that may arise when selling an inherited Washington home: filing procedures, costs and fees, attorneys, stages of litigation, tax implications, county records, and court resources.
Read on if you want to sell a house in probate fast, easy, and profitably!
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What Is Probate Anyway?
Probate is the legal process that occurs after a person (“the decedent”) passes away. It is the administration of the “estate” (the sum of the decedent’s assets).
Probate has two main objectives: (1) the debts of the estate are settled, and (2) ownership of property is transferred to heirs and beneficiaries. The process includes proving a will is valid (where one exists), identifying and appraising the decedent’s property, and paying outstanding debts and taxes.
If the property remains after resolving valid creditor claims, it is distributed in accordance with local state law. Probate property includes real estate, personal property, as well as financial instruments (stocks, bonds, ownership in a business).
Do You Need To File Probate in Washington State?
Probate litigation is necessary to inherit a property in Washington.
This is true whether the decedent left a will (“testate”) or did not leave a will (“intestate”).
Testate Probate (With A Will).
Where the deceased person left a valid will, it must be admitted to the probate court to be effective.
In addition, Washington’s Probate Rules mandates that heirs must file a petition to admit a decedent’s will identifying the following:
- Statement of interest and contact information for petitioner;
- Name, last known address, and personal information of the decedent;
- Surviving spouses and beneficiaries;
- Existence of all unrevoked wills; and
- A statement that the will has been deposited with the county court.
Intestate Probate (Without A Will).
Where the deceased person did not leave a will, filing probate is also necessary to inherit a house in Washington.
The property of the decedent not disposed of by a will passes to heirs via the rules in requiring that heirs file a petition for administration.
As to the existence of a will, the petitioner must state that: “after the exercise of reasonable diligence, the petitioner is unaware of any unrevoked wills or codicils, or if the petitioner is aware of any unrevoked wills or codicils, a statement why the wills or codicils are not being probated.”
Can I Sell a House During Probate?
You can absolutely sell a house in Washington during probate.
Selling an inherited house may even be necessary to settle estate debts, pay legal fees, or resolve disputes among heirs.
When selling a house during probate litigation in Washington, courts typically expect you to provide the following:
- Petition for Order Authorizing the Sale of Real Property, signed by Personal Representative and Attorney, including a statement that the contract is a fair market price, the sale is arm’s length transaction, include property legal description and street address.
- Copy of Sales Contract.
- Copy of Appraisal or Broker’s Letter with comparable market analysis.
- Consents of ALL residuary beneficiaries in the estate, or proof of formal notice, without objection or set a hearing with notice.
- Submit Proposed Order on Sale of Real Property or bring the order to an ex-parte or scheduled court hearing.
The court – if the materials are deemed sufficient – issues an order approving the sale.
Sale proceeds first pay off the estate debts, and the remaining is distributed to heirs.
Stages of Probate Litigation
Probate litigation in Washington State has 5-stages:
- Stage #1: Filing The Petition. Probate litigation is instituted by: (1) an executor (or personal representation) named in the will applying for the court to validate the will; or (2) when there is no will, a person petitions the court to be named executor.
- Stage #2: Notice To Creditors and Beneficiaries. The personal representative – typically through an attorney – notices anyone with an interest in the estate (creditors and beneficiaries).
- Stage #3: Payment of The Estate’s Debts, Taxes, and Expenses. A decedent’s debts do not disappear – they must be paid before you inherit any property. This may include credit cards, mortgages, back taxes, outstanding bills, and attorney fees.
- Stage #4: Legal Title in Property Transfers In Accordance With Will And/Or Local Law. Once the estate settles its debts, the personal representative petitions the court to transfer the remaining assets to beneficiaries.
- Stage #5: Closing the Probate Estate. The executor prepares a final account and petition for final distribution. A hearing is scheduled with notice to interested parties, creditors are paid and assets are formally distributed. A “closing statement” or “closing affidavit” establishing that all assets were properly distributed.
What to learn more about probate phases?
Check out our blog How Probate Work in Washington State
Top Probate Attorneys In Washington State
In Washington, virtually all probate filings need an attorney.
We’ve done some heavy lifting to identify top-rated probate attorneys in Washington State.
Here is the list!
Stacey Romberg, Attorney at Law. Stacy Romber, Attorney at Law, This Law office is one of the best-rated firms with a 5-star rating after 54 Google My Business Reviews. A good choice for a probate specialist.
- URL: Staceyromberg.com
- Address: 10115 Greenwood Ave N #275, Seattle, WA 98133
- Telephone: (206) 784-5305
Phinney Estate Law. Phinney Estate Law is a small firm from Seattle founded in 2007. It focuses on estate planning, probate, guardianship, and mediation, serving individuals and families throughout the Seattle metro area. This firm has 6 Google My Business Reviews and a 4.5-star rating.
- URL: Phinneyestatelas.com
- Address: 751 North 75th Street Seattle, Washington 98103
- Telephone: (206) 459-1908
Luce & Associates, P.S. According to satisfied client Edie Van, “They have a very good lawyer who specializes in estate planning, trusts, will still, guardianships, probate services..” 4.5-Star Rating with 13 Google My Business Reviews
- URL: Lucelawfirm.com
- Address: 4505 Pacific Highway East, Suite A, Tacoma, WA 98424
- Telephone: (253) 922-8724
Probate Court: Contact Info and Resources
Probate litigation occurs at the county level in Washington State. For example, probate litigation is filed with the Couty Clerks Ex Parte and Probate Department in King County and Pierce County Superior Court Clerk’s office in Pierce County
King County’s probate court office is located at 516 3rd ave Seattle WA 98104. Call the probate court office by calling (253) 477-2517 or review the Exparte Motions and Hearings Manual here.
Probate resources, rules, and info are available online:
- Washington Statutes (Title 11 RCW Probate and Trust Law)
- Probate Court Rules (LCR 40.1 Ex Parte and Probate Department)
- Probate Initial Hearing (King County)
- Probate, and Wills (Chapter 11.12 RCW)
- Probate Documents
Probate Costs & How To Pay Them
Probate litigation is expensive.
Many heirs wishing to sell a probate house in Washington struggle to afford the process.
Costs to expect in Washington include:
- Attorney’s Fees. Legal fees are the largest cost. Probate attorneys file the petition, notice heirs and creditors, conduct a property inventory of assets and liabilities, and manage the litigation. Compensation for simple cases averages $150/hour – complex cases can reach up to $300/hour for complex cases. Hourly rate is also dependent on the city and lawyer’s skill level.
- Court Filing Fees. Washington charges $240.00 for probate filing. For the Civil Probate fee schedule click here.
- Personal Representative Fee. Personal representatives in Washington may charge a fee. According to RCW 11.48.050, “He or she shall be allowed all necessary expenses in the care, management, and settlement of the estate.
If you do not have the resources available to start probate, here are some alternative payment options:
- Distribution of Estate Proceeds. Attorneys supply the entire costs for probate in exchange for being compensated directly from the estate.
- Professional Cash Home Buyer. Professional real estate investors pay for probate if the heir and investors agree on a price to sell a house at the conclusion of litigation. Interested in this service? Call us at (253) 289-3773 or enter click here for an offer.
- Percentage of An Estate. Rather than paying an attorney out of estate proceeds, attorneys may accept a percentage of the estate as compensation.
- Pro Bono & Legal Aide. In Washington, you can waive filing fees by submitting a Waiver Application if your income falls below specified thresholds. You can contact pro bono organizations to see if you meet their criteria for free representation to offset legal fees.
Finding Property Info in County Records
The details for any Washington State probate house are available online.
Gathering information is particularly important selling an inherited house – heirs frequently are unfamiliar with the specifics.
The best source for information is direct county records. It is the most accurate and recent information.
There are three main categories of county-wide data: (1) property details; (2) tax information; and (3) sales comps.
The House Specifications.
Local property appraiser websites (for example – the King County property assessor) let you search by address, property name, and parcel number. The information available includes the size of living area, use, bedroom/bathroom, floors, lot size, year built, zoning, just market values, assessed values, sales history, and features.
This info helps compare the probate house to other nearby properties (the “neighborhood fit”) and recent sales and active listings (the “comps”).
Not sure if taxes are up-to-date?
Most counties in Washington maintain a tax assessor website. For example, visit the King County’s tax assessor site for info on the property’s tax payments, liens, and certificates.
Decedents – due to age and income issues – often fall behind on taxes. Heirs may be completely unaware. If the tax assessor shows delinquent taxes, check for a scheduled tax auction here.
Sales Comps & Active Listings.
Sites like Zillow, Redfin, or Realtor do not include all sales and lack recent sales records available through the county.
It is highly advisable to rely directly on first-hand property records.
For a free customized report on any Washington property, give us a call (253) 289-3773
Tax Implications: Selling a Probate House
Make sure to have a firm grasp on the tax consequences if you sell the Washington State probate house.
There are three main tax categories to be aware of: local estate tax, inheritance tax, and the federal estate tax.
Local Estate Tax.
An “estate tax” (AKA “death tax”) is levied on an heir’s inherited portion of an estate if the overall value of the estate exceeds $2.193 million
You don’t have to worry about local estate taxes when selling a Washington house when the estate’s value is less than the figure above.
An “inheritance tax” is a tax based on you inheriting a specific property.
Keep in mind – “inheritance tax” is different than “estate tax”. The estate tax is assessed against the overall value of the estate and an inheritance tax is based on an individual bequest.
Here’s what Julie Garber at The Balance explained:
At first glance, the difference between an estate tax and an inheritance tax may appear to just be semantics. Both are collected as the result of someone’s death, but an inheritance tax is based on an individual bequest of property—literally each inheritance.
An estate tax is assessed against the overall value of a decedent’s estate, all gifts made to all beneficiaries. A decedent’s estate is responsible for paying the estate tax, whereas the beneficiary is liable for the inheritance tax.
You are again in luck when selling a Washington probate property.
Washington doesn’t charge an inheritance tax.
Federal Estate Tax.
The Internal Revenue Service charges an estate tax under certain conditions (although there is no federal inheritance tax).
If the decedent is a U.S. citizen or resident and decedent’s death occurred in 2016, an estate tax return (Form 706) must be filed if the gross estate of the decedent, increased by the decedent’s adjusted taxable gifts and specific gift tax exemption, is valued at more than the filing threshold for the year of the decedent’s death. The filing threshold for 2018 is $11,180,000, 2017 is $5,490,000, for 2016 is $5,450,000, for 2015 is $5,430,000, for 2014 is $5,340,000, for 2013 is $5,250,000, for 2012 is $5,120,000, and for 2011 is $5,000,000.
Tax law is incredibly complex.
Consult a qualified accountant and/or attorney.
Sell Direct to A Cash Buyer or Pay A Realtor?
Those selling probate or inherited property face the following question.
Should I sell my house on my own, or hire a real estate agent?
There are advantages and disadvantages to each approach.
Let’s walk through them . . .
Reasons to sell on your own:
- Save up to 6% in realtor commission.
- Avoid “open houses” and repeated showings.
- No online listings or “for sale” signs on the lawn.
- Close faster on your schedule.
- Avoid exclusive listing agreements guaranteeing commissions even if you find the buyer or the agent fails to get the promised price.
Reasons to hire an agent:
- Limited time available to oversee the sale.
- Agents serve as a neutral negotiator.
- House will be listed publicly for sale.
- Don’t mind waiting some time to sell for top dollar.
- Little knowledge of real estate sales.
Alternatives To Selling a Probate House
Not sure if you want to sell your Washington probate house?
Several other options are available if you inherit a house:
- Move-In. Are you renting or unhappy with your current living arrangement? Probate houses are frequently “free and clear” (i.e. the mortgage has been paid off). You can move in and live without substantial monthly rent or mortgage payments. Of course, the downside is by not selling you will not receive a lump sum cash payment.
- Rent It Out. Want a steady stream of monthly payments? Consider renting the place. Study the local neighborhood rental rates. Houses with 3+ bedrooms in a good neighborhood tend to make solid investments. You can also capture appreciation by holding real estate over time. Be wary if you live far away – long-distance landlords struggle to manage rental property.
- Become The Tenant! Many heirs don’t realize you can get a lump sum payment and move into the property (or remain there if you already reside there). Real estate investors often are happy to buy the property for cash and let you remain under a lease.
Considering selling a probate or inherited house in Washington State?
Give us a call (253) 216-2497, click here, or fill in the form below for a no-obligation, totally free, as-is all-cash offer without paying any fees or commission.
This guide applies to the following cities: Seattle, Tacoma, Everett, Bellingham, Vancouver, Spokane, Yakima, Bellevue, Kirkland, Des Moines,
Here are some additional Washington State Probate resources that we created:
- The Probate Process For A House In Seattle
- How To Sell A House You Inherited In Washington State
- What are the Tax Consequences of Selling a House Inherited in Seattle?
We make it easy for people to “sell my house in probate” with Us.