Probate in Washington
Words of Wisdom for Personal Representatives

After over twenty-five years of doing this work, I have several tips that help to insure that the probate process goes smoothly: 

     1. Keep things open and transparent. Prepare information for heirs on a timely basis. Make the
     information easily understood. Give information without argument or hassle.

     2. Do the best you can to de-escalate. Life is already hard enough. If you can’t be polite to the
     other person involved, keep things in writing. Internet makes this very easy.

     3. If you can’t do the job as Personal Representative, then resign. There is no need to have
     someone force you out. It only makes life worse.

     4.  Be sure you know the cause of death.

     5. Try to handle the tangible items, like photos, with emotional gentleness. Some things mean
     more to people than others.

     6. If someone is really out of line and you are the Personal Representative, get help. Heirs aren’t
     allowed to go into the house and help themselves to whatever they want.

     7. Do not mix the decedent’s assets with your own assets. You must keep the decedent’s separate
     from your own through the entire probate process. Mixing assets can create sophisticated
     problems that take a great deal of time and money to sort out.

     8. Be very careful before paying creditor claims made by other family members. When family
     members claim that the decedent owed them money, do not pay without conducting a reasonable
     investigation. Keep documents

     9. Make sure that you transfer all of the decedent’s property before the probate is closed.
     Re-opening probates costs time and money 

    10. If you decide to charge a fee for acting as Personal Representative, keep records of your time.
    The records will be important for tax purposes and they may also be used to provide information to     the other heirs.