Probate and small estates

What to do after a death

Legal Voice has a checklist with a list of steps to take after death, including both immediate steps as well as later steps to take regarding property, finances, and papers. The list is available in English, Spanish, and Russian.

Filing the Will

If a decedent had a Will, anyone who has the Will has a legal duty to file the Will with the Clerk's Office or deliver it to the named executor under Section 11.20.010 of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW).

More information about the procedure for filing the decedent’s Will is available from Washington (State) Probate.

The King County Law Library has a self-help kit for filing a Will when probate is not needed that has information and instructions that would helpful in Clark County. If you buy their kit, please note that the Clark County Clerk uses a different Case Information Cover Sheet that will be provided when you file.


Probate is the legal process for distributing a person's property 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 Title 11 of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW).

  • Washington (State) Probate can help you decide if probate is necessary and learn about what you need to do and how to do it. This also includes information about how to file a Will.
  • Nolo's legal encyclopedia has an overview of Washington probate that can also help you decide if probate is necessary or if a Small Estate Affidavit is an option.
  • Information about probate, alternatives to probate, instructions, and forms is available at Washington (State) Probate.
  • King County Probates is a site created by an attorney in King County. While there is some information specific to that county, most of it is general information about forms and procedures that would apply anywhere in Washington.

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 might apply to your situation. 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:

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: