Probate and small estates


Probate is the legal process for distributing a person's property (i.e., the things they owned) and paying their debts after they have died. The person who died is the "decedent," and their property is called their "estate." The beneficiaries of the estate will be named in the decedent's Will and/or found in the probate statutes in RCW Title 11. A probate case can be filed if the person had a Will or didn't have a Will.

If a bank or financial institution tells you that you need "Letters of Administration" or "Letters Testamentary” to gain access to the decedent’s funds, you must use the probate process to obtain those forms.

Self-help kits from the law library

The law library sells two self-help kits to assist with probate:

self-help form kits

Both kits have forms and instructions to open and close a simple probate. They do not cover administration of the estate. Kits can be purchased at the library or online and mailed out.

Small estates

A Small Estate Affidavit is an alternative to probate and might apply to your situation. The affidavit procedure allows people who are entitled to a dead person's (also called a decedent) personal property to get that property without going through probate. If you qualify, this process is cheaper and easier than the probate process.

Can you use a Small Estate Affidavit?

The King County Law Library has an infographic that may help you decide if you meet the requirements to use the affidavit:

Self-help kit from the law library

self-help form kits

The law library sells a Small Estate Affidavit self-help kit that includes forms, detailed instructions, and flowcharts to help with procedures and decision-making.

Additional information

You can also read information, get instructions, and download free Small Estate Affidavit forms at: