Procedure for Filing Decedent’s Will
If Decedent died testate (ie, with a Will), RCW 11.20.010 requires anyone having custody or control of a Will to either:
- File it with the proper Court or deliver it to the person named in the Will as Decedent’s Personal Representative.
- Timing: Within 30 days after receiving knowledge of Decedent’s death.
- If the person having custody or control of the Will is Decedent’s named Personal Representative: File it with the proper Court.
- Timing: Within 40 days after receiving knowledge of Decedent’s death.
RCW 11.20.010 requires the Will to be filed whether or not it will be offered for probate and provides for damages upon the failure to do so. Washington law does not require a Will to be probated — only to be filed promptly after a Decedent’s death.
Bottom-line: If you are in possession of a Will of a Decedent, Washington law requires you to either promptly:
- File it with the Court (See: Procedure for Filing Decedent’s Will By Itself), or
- Deliver it to the named Personal Representative (for his/her filing of the Will, usually together with a Petition for Letters).
- If the Will is not likely to be probated (ie, a Petition for Probate is not going to be filed soon):
- File the Will with the Court, in what is know as a “Will Only“ filing;
- The Clerk’s Office will issue a new caption (In re Will of [Decedent]) and case number for it;
- Pay the $20 filing fee; and
- In King County, file a King County Case Assignment Designation and Case Information Cover Sheet.
- If the Will is likely to be probated soon:
- Deliver the Will to Decedent’s first-named Personal Representative, as specified in the Will.
- If you file the Will as a Will Only, you will:
- Effectively waste your $20 filing fee if a Petition for Probate will soon be filed, and
- In King County, cause any later filed Petition for Probate to be required to be heard only at its proper venue (ie, either “downtown” or at Kent)
Side-bar: The original of a Decedent’s Will is one of the very few types of documents that are saved and not discarded by the Clerk’s Office after scanning and “electronic filing.”
- Decedent’s Will Is in an Inaccessible Safety Deposit Box — Gaining Access to the Box
- Decedent’s Will Is Lost or Destroyed — Probating a Lost or Destroyed Will
- Decedent’s Will Is Not “Self-Proving”
- Decedent’s Will Has Already Been Filed as a “Will Only”
- Decedent’s Will Has Already Been Admitted to Probate in Another State (ie, the “Domiciliary” state, making Washington the “Ancillary” state) — an “Ancillary Probate”)