Probate, trust, guardianship and inheritance litigation
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Surviving Spouse Rights Washington

Surviving spouses have protected rights and benefits under Washington state law, including:

  • Community Property
  • Intestate Share
  • Omitted Spouse Rights
  • Award Allowance


Surviving spouse rights in Washington center around community property, since Washington is a community property state.  Under community property laws, each spouse owns 1/2 of the property acquired during the marriage.  Property acquired before the marriage, or received from gifts or inheritances, is considered separate property.

Surviving Spouse Rights In Washington When There Is No Will – Intestate Estate

When someone dies without a will in Washington, they have died intestate.  When an estate is intestate in Washington, distribution can be complicated because of Washington’s community property laws.

The widow has the right to all of the decedent’s net community estate, and one of the following:

  • All of the net separate estate:  If decedent had no surviving issue, parent, or issue of parent, the surviving spouse is entitled to the entire net separate estate.
  • 1/2 of the decedent’s net separate estate:  If the decedent was survived by issue, the surviving spouse is entitled to 1/2 of the decedent’s net separate estate.
  • 3/4 of the decedent’s net separate estate:  If the decedent has no surviving issue, but has one or more surviving parent or issue of parents, then the surviving spouse has the right to 3/4 of the decedent’s net separate estate.


Surviving Spouses Who Married After The Execution of The Will  – Omitted Spouses

Washington also has a law to protect surviving spouses who were not mentioned in the will.  The law protecting an omitted spouse or an omitted domestic partner provides that:

If a will fails to name or provide for a spouse or domestic partner of the decedent whom the decedent marries or enters into a domestic partnership after the will’s execution and who survives the decedent, referred to in this section as an “omitted spouse” or “omitted domestic partner,” the spouse or domestic partner must receive a portion of the decedent’s estate . . . unless it appears either from the will or from other clear and convincing evidence that the failure was intentional.

Surviving Spouse Allowances and Exemptions

Surviving spouses can petition the court for an award from decedent’s community property or separate property in the amount of $125,000.  RCW 11.54.020.

In order to receive the award, decedent’s last expenses (funeral and last illness) and administration expenses must have been provided for or paid.  Also, the surviving spouse or domestic partner must not have participated in the willful and unlawful killing of the decedent.  RCW 11.54.030.

The petition for an award must be filed before the earliest of:

(a) Eighteen months from the date of the decedent’s death if within twelve months of the decedent’s death either:

(i) A personal representative has been appointed; or

(ii) A notice agent has filed a declaration and oath as required in RCW 11.42.010(3)(a)(ii); or

(b) The termination of any probate proceeding for the decedent’s estate that has been commenced in the state of Washington; or

(c) Six years from the date of the death of the decedent.

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