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Probate question in WA state: what is the law regarding spouse vs children from a previous marriage in property division?

Olga, WA |

I owned property free and clear before marriage in '97. Husband built new building and added on to existing building. I signed a quitclaim deed to give him 50% of interest. We split (I moved out) four years ago; never completed a legal separation or divorce. He has now passed on, and did not have a will. He has an adult daughter from a previous marriage. I can't seem to get a clear answer about what to expect in WA state on how this will be divided up.

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Attorney answers 3


You should review the specific facts with your attorney to get more informed advice based on information discovered by your attorney.

Since your husband died without a will, his estate will be handled according to the intestate statute RCW 11.04.015 (Descent and distribution of real and personal estate). The statutes are at .

An important factor is what is community property and what is separate property. You get all the community property and one-half of the separate property.

The language of the "quitclaim deed" likely determines the characterization of his interest in the real property you owned before marriage.

If you and the daughter can settle on how to divide things up and if you two are the only persons entitled to get anything under the intestate statute, the court is not going to object as to how the estate is divided.



That's some pretty heavy-duty legalese there. Thank you. Do you know a link to a definition of Community Property vs Separate Property?

Thuong-Tri Nguyen

Thuong-Tri Nguyen


The statutory definitions are in Chapter 26.16 RCW (RIGHTS AND LIABILITIES — COMMUNITY PROPERTY) at . In many cases, case law made by the courts need to be applied to the facts.


I agree. You need to take the deed to an experienced probate attorney. This is not the time to handle a "do it yourself" case. If you can't find one in the Yellow Pages or online, call the Washington State Bar. I think they are headquartered in Seattle. They will refer you to an attorney in your area. Good luck!


Unfortunately, this isn’t a question that can be answered without more detail. As a general rule, community property is property acquired during marriage. Separate property is property owned before marriage, or received by gift or inheritance after marriage, and any profit from that property. Property earned while the spouses are living apart is also separate property. Whether this piece of land, or your husband’s interest in it, was his separate or community property depends on the facts. You need a lawyer to review the language used in the quitclaim deed, and also possibly the source of the funds he used in the construction. The lawyer can also help you resolve whether you wish to be appointed the personal representative for your husband’s estate, and what that entails, or whether you want to waive the right and let the daughter deal with it.

This answer provides general legal information and should not be construed as legal advice to be applied to any specific factual situation. It is not intended to create and does not create an attorney-client relationship. The attorney writing this post is licensed in Texas and Washington only and the laws of your jurisdiction may differ.