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Christopher S. Mulvaney


I heard a Judge say in open Court: “My job is spreading misery.  If anyone leaves happy I have failed.”

Does that sound like a place you want to go?

Compassionate Legal Counsel During A Difficult Time

When someone dies, two things need to be determined in order to administer the Estate:

(1) whether a Probate is needed; and

(2) if so, in which Court should Probate be opened. 

In Washington, probate is required for all real property that has no other way to pass out of a decedent’s name (such as a transfer on death deed, Trust, LLC, or joint tenancy), and for all assets over $100,000 that have no other way of passing to beneficiaries (such as a beneficiary designation, payable on death designation, Trust, LLC, or joint ownership).

Probate may be opened in the County where a person dies or in the County where property is owned.  Generally, opening Probate where real property is owned is most efficient for Estate administration because a Probate Court Order will be needed in each County where real property is located.  For example, if a King County resident who owned a home in King County and owned a vacation property in Broward County, Florida passed away that had no other way to pass to beneficiaries died in Maricopa County, Arizona then there is no advantage to a probate in Arizona.  This is because if a Probate was opened in King County, then an adjunct proceeding would need to be opened in Broward County, Florida in order to get an Order from a Broward County Judge recognizing the validity of the appointment of the Executor and authorizing the Executor to transfer the Florida property.

The death of a loved one is never easy.   As an experienced probate attorney, I understand the personal and legal challenges people face after losing someone. I provide compassionate and sound legal counsel to those who need assistance with estate administration.

  • Probate is the Court supervised process for publicly appointing an Executor (AKA Personal Representative – the gender neutral term that was previously Executrix) of the Estate to file an inventory, and pay taxes, creditors, and beneficiaries.
  • Probate is the last resort method of transferring property of a deceased person to a beneficiary that has no other way to transfer.
  • Probate does not require a Will. In fact, not having a Will means the beneficiaries have to talk with each other and agree about the Executor, the inventory, and the process in advance which reduces the likelihood of disputes. A Will that has been witnessed can just be submitted to Court without any conversations taking place first. I can’t tell you how many times I have been contacted regarding a lost Will. King County has a Registry in which they will keep your Will for 100 years for $20, but you have to pay another $20 to change your Will. Even if you do have a Will it can be declared invalid resulting in an intestate probate anyway.
  • The fast, cheap, and private ways of avoiding the slow, expensive and public Probate include:
    • Transferring real estate with a Transfer on Death Deed,
    • Naming Beneficiaries on IRA, 401(k), life insurance and brokerage accounts,
    • Using Payable on Death (POD) Designations,
    • Re-titling accounts in your name as Trustee of your Trust.

The best Washington Probate websites are below:

A good book about what to do when a loved one dies is called: I’m Dead, Now What?: Important Information About My Belongings, Business Affairs, and Wishes: Peter Pauper Press

Here is how to mail notice to a credit bureau to get a deceased notice making fraud less likely. One of the advantages of doing a credit freeze while you are alive is that this step becomes unnecessary.


Positively impacting the grieving of loved ones for their loss of you is important to promote peace and family harmony.  I have been to a couple of “wakes” that were beer and pizza paid for by the Estate of the Deceased that got everyone together to tell stories and receive sentimental items.  Everyone came together and thought the Deceased would have really loved the gathering.  It was all about the people.  Some more valuable property was passed outside of the gathering, but it was incidental and irrelevant when compared to the love everyone had for each other and their lost loved one.  I wish that for everyone.

Unfortunately, disputes, fights, and litigation are common in estate administration. The King County Court is underfunded. There is not a dedicated Probate Commissioner, instead the department is the Ex Parte & Probate.

Do yourself a favor (and the Court a favor), and handle your affairs without involvement of the Court and the burden of time, expense, and effort. Your loved ones will thank you for the increased peace and harmony you have provided for them during a difficult time of grief.

At Mulvaney Law Offices, PLLC, in Bellevue, Washington, I work with families and Personal Representatives to navigate them through probate. As your lawyer, I will offer straightforward guidance to help you handle your loved one’s estate appropriately and efficiently, while maintaining harmony among survivors to the maximum extent possible.


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