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Simplifying Estate Distribution in Washington State: Understanding Small Estate Affidavits

Updated: Jan 10


In Washington State, navigating the legalities surrounding estate distribution can be a daunting task, especially when dealing with smaller estates that don't include real estate and are valued under $100,000. However, there is a less complicated alternative to the traditional probate process – the small estate affidavit. By utilizing this streamlined procedure governed by RCW 11.62.010, personal representatives can save time and effort. In this blog post, we will delve into the details of the small estate affidavit, its requirements, and the importance of seeking legal guidance to ensure a smooth distribution process.

Understanding the Small Estate Affidavit: The small estate affidavit provides an expedited method for distributing estates without the involvement of real estate and with a total value below $100,000. By opting for this alternative, individuals can bypass the more cumbersome probate process. However, it's important to note that this option is subject to specific rules and guidelines.

  1. Notifying Known Heirs: To initiate the small estate affidavit process, the personal representative (also known as the executor or administrator) must first send a formal notice to all known heirs. This notice serves to inform them of the decedent's passing and the intention to distribute the estate using the small estate affidavit. Clear communication during this stage ensures that all parties involved are aware of the proceedings.

  2. Waiting Period: After notifying the heirs, the personal representative must observe a mandatory waiting period of at least forty days from the decedent's date of death. This waiting period allows ample time for interested parties to raise any objections or present additional information that may impact the estate distribution.

  3. Completion of the Affidavit: Once the waiting period has lapsed, the personal representative can proceed with completing the small estate affidavit. This crucial document compiles essential information about the deceased individual, including their assets, debts, and beneficiaries. Gathering accurate and comprehensive details ensures the affidavit's validity and facilitates a smooth distribution process.

  4. Filing the Affidavit: After its completion, the small estate affidavit must be filed with the appropriate court. This formal filing step ensures that the distribution process remains transparent and adheres to legal requirements. By filing the affidavit, the personal representative confirms their compliance with the prescribed guidelines for small estate distribution in Washington State.

Distribution Process:

The subsequent steps of the distribution process depend on whether a valid will exists or not.

  1. Valid Will: If a valid will is present, the personal representative can distribute the estate in accordance with the instructions outlined in the will. This allows for a clear and straightforward allocation of assets, providing peace of mind to both the decedent and their beneficiaries.

  2. No Valid Will: In cases where no valid will exists, Washington's intestate laws come into effect. These laws outline the distribution of assets when no specific instructions are available. The personal representative must adhere to these laws to ensure a fair and just distribution process.

Seeking Legal Guidance:

Estate laws are complex, and the intricacies of each case may vary. Therefore, it is highly recommended to consult with an attorney experienced in estate law within Washington State. By seeking personalized advice, individuals can navigate the legal landscape with confidence, ensuring compliance with the current laws and regulations.


Navigating the estate distribution process in Washington State can be simplified through the utilization of small estate affidavits for estates without real estate valued under $100,000. By adhering to the specific requirements, notifying known heirs, and completing the necessary affidavit, personal representatives can expedite the distribution process. Whether following the instructions outlined in a valid will or adhering to Washington's intestate laws, it is essential to consult with a knowledgeable attorney to ensure a seamless and legally compliant


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