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Intestate succession in Washington

On Behalf of | Apr 9, 2021 | Estate Planning |

Most people in Washington may simply assume that their loved ones will get around to creating their estate plans (without any prompting whatsoever). Yet statistics show that is often not the case. Indeed, according to information shared by Forbes Magazine, less than half of American adults over the age of 55 do not have a will.  

The same source, however, shows that over 90% of that same population does not feel reluctant about talking over end-of-life issues with friends and family. Why, then, would so many not see to their estate planning instruments? Many may simply assume that if they do not outline the dispersal of their assets, that task will fall to their beneficiaries. That is not the case.  

Dispersing intestate estates

When one dies intestate (without a will), state law determines who receives what from their estate. In such a scenario, Section 11.04.015 of the Revised Code of Washington states that the surviving spouse of the decedent receives all of their assets if the decedent leaves behind no issue (direct lineal descendants) or surviving parents. That interest reduces to 50% of the estate of the decedent does have surviving issue, or 75% of the decedent leaves behind parents or siblings.  

The hierarchy of intestate succession

If the decedent does not have a surviving spouse, then their estate would pass in the following order:  

  • To their issue 
  • To their parents 
  • To their siblings (and their issue) 
  • To their grandparents 
  • To their paternal and maternal kindred (divided equally) 

One will notice that Washington’s intestate succession laws leave no allowances for anyone not biologically related to the decedent. Should one want such a party (e.g. a friend, coworker or charitable organization) to benefit from their estate, they need to specify that desire in a will.  

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