Skip to main content

Is there personal liability assigned from the deceased person to an heir applying for "letters of administration"?

Bremerton, WA |

Theres no easy way to say this but, my son committed suicide in his home by self inflicted shotgun wound to the head. His home was in foreclosure on 1st and 2nd mortgages, he owed student loans, and other debt, he was overdrawn in his bank account, He died insolvent, there was no other money anywhere in his estate. The house has been foreclosed by the first lender. But before that happened his homeowners insurance paid for repairing the hardwood floor, cleaning up the interior and replacement of lost possessions that were soiled in the incident. Now his mother is holding a check for about $300.00 and we are thinking we need to go to the courthouse to get a "letters of administration", but we don't want to assume liability for any of his debt. Are we correct in this?

Also, he died intestate...

+ Read More

Attorney answers 5


i am so sorry for you loss. I cannot imagine what you and his mother are going through.

You do not need to go through probate. there is another method for small estates under RCW 11.62.010. An affidavit needs to be filed with DSHS. I would contact the department since it is so large, to find out what section under Financial Recovery and its mailing address it needs to go. The requirements under the statute are:
(2) An affidavit which is to be made pursuant to this section shall state:

(a) The claiming successor's name and address, and that the claiming successor is a "successor" as defined in RCW 11.62.005;

(b) That the decedent was a resident of the state of Washington on the date of his or her death;

(c) That the value of the decedent's entire estate subject to probate, not including the surviving spouse's or surviving domestic partner's community property interest in any assets which are subject to probate in the decedent's estate, wherever located, less liens and encumbrances, does not exceed one hundred thousand dollars;

(d) That forty days have elapsed since the death of the decedent;

(e) That no application or petition for the appointment of a personal representative is pending or has been granted in any jurisdiction;

(f) That all debts of the decedent including funeral and burial expenses have been paid or provided for;

(g) A description of the personal property and the portion thereof claimed, together with a statement that such personal property is subject to probate;

(h) That the claiming successor has given written notice, either by personal service or by mail, identifying his or her claim, and describing the property claimed, to all other successors of the decedent, and that at least ten days have elapsed since the service or mailing of such notice; and

(i) That the claiming successor is either personally entitled to full payment or delivery of the property claimed or is entitled to full payment or delivery thereof on the behalf and with the written authority of all other successors who have an interest therein.

(3) A transfer agent of any security shall change the registered ownership of the security claimed from the decedent to the person claiming to be the successor with respect to such security upon the presentation of proof of death and of an affidavit made by such person which meets the requirements of subsection (2) of this section. Any governmental agency required to issue certificates of ownership or of license registration to personal property shall issue a new certificate of ownership or of license registration to a person claiming to be a successor of the decedent upon receipt of proof of death and of an affidavit made by such person which meets the requirements of subsection (2) of this section.

(4) No release from any Washington state or local taxing authority may be required before any assets or debts are paid or delivered to a successor of a decedent as required under this section.

(5) A copy of the affidavit, including the decedent's social security number, shall be mailed to the state of Washington, department of social and health services, office of financial recovery.

Lastly, you can contact see about free services as this is would cost more to have an attorney draw up the affidavit that the check is worth. An attorney at one the legal clinics can draft an affidavit which you can then type up and take to your bank to have notarized. Information about the King County Legal clinics is here:




If $300 is all there is, it may be simpler to just forget about the whole thing.

First, whether through the small estate or regular probate, money goes to heir only after all the creditors (filing valid claims) are paid off. Given that your son owed all those creditors, the $300 may not go to you first unless you paid money for his funeral expenses in which case you would have a priority claim over those other creditors.

If the check is not cashed, the insurance company likely will eventually forward the money to the state's unclaimed property office. If you are the heir of your son through intestate, you can likely get that money from the unclaimed office. This likely will take several years. By then, the creditors' claim to the estate will have expired.

If your son had minor children, they likely have a priority claim over all creditors. If your son had worked long enough, his minor children may have Social Security benefits based on his earnings.


Sorry to hear about your tragic loss. What is the $300 check for?

By being appointed administer of an estate you are managing the affairs/debts of the estate. This duty does not transfer to you being personally liable for the debts of the estate.

Good luck.

DISCLAIMER: David J. McCormick is licensed to practice law in the State of Wisconsin and this answer is being provided for informational purposes only because the laws of your jurisdiction may differ. This answer based on general legal principles and is not intended for the purpose of providing specific legal advice or opinions. Under no circumstances does this answer constitute the establishment of an attorney-client relationship.



Avvo divorce email series

Sign up to receive a 10-part series of useful information and legal advice about the divorce process.

Can't find what you're looking for?

Post a free question on our public forum.

Ask a Question

- or -

Search for lawyers by reviews and ratings.

Find a Lawyer