What happens when someone in Washington dies with no will and has assets?
Estate Planning Attorney
When someone dies without a Will, they are deemed to die "intestate" and there is a statute (RCW 11.04.015) that determines who receives there property. For example, if the deceased is survived by a spouse, then the spouse receives all of the couple's community property, and half the decedant's separate property if the decedent has descendants who survived, or three quarters of such separate property if the decedent did not have any descendants who survived him or her.
Landlord / Tenant Lawyer
If the decedent owned real property, there will have to be an adjudication of intestacy in order to clear the title for transfer. If the decedent did not own real property and their probate estate is valued at less than $60K, there is a statute to allow an expedited, simplified probate. Many assets are not part of the probate estate.
Without a will, each beneficiary will take equally. WA has a simple, straightforward statute on probate. You can find a local attorney who can help you with this through your local county Bar association or here on avvo. Hope this helps. Elizabeth Powell
Estate Planning Attorney
To follow up on the Ms. Powell's answer, the amount of personal property that can pass outside of probate by the small estate affidavit was raised to $100,000 in 2006.
Contracts / Agreements Lawyer
For those more aggressive attorneys......even with real property the surviving spouse can often avoid probate by executing an affidavit in lieu of probate, which includes the relationship, the legal description of the property, that it is community in nature, and that there are no creditors or other heirs that will object to the property ownership. Title companies will often accept this form of affidavit when it is clear due to the lenght of marriage that the property would transfer to the surviving spouse by operation of law.
Remember, I'm an attorney but I'm not your attorney. Only a thorough review of the facts of your case by a competent attorney will result in informed legal advice.
When someone dies without a will, any assets subject to probate will be distributed per the states institute statutes.
Any assets in a Trust, owned jointly, with payable on death designations or beneficiaries will be distributed per the contract in place in that asset. The remaining assets will be distributed in a probate process.
I have a link to a summary of WA's Probate Process