As a community property state, a surviving spouse of a decedent who died while domiciled in the state of Washington is entitled to half of the community property.  There is no right to an “elective share.” Community property is property acquired while the surviving spouse and decedent (deceased spouse) were married.

The entire community property, however, is subject to probate administration to include the payment of obligations and debts of the community, the award in lieu of homestead, the allowance for family support, and any other matter for which the community property would be responsible or liable if the decedent were living.

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.

Under Washington’s laws governing intestate succession if the decedent dies without a will a surviving spouse is entitled to received an intestate share. The share of the surviving spouse or state registered domestic partner shall receive the following share:

  • All of the decedent’s share of the net community estate; and

  • One-half of the net separate estate if the intestate is survived by issue; or

  • Three-quarters of the net separate estate if there is no surviving issue, but the intestate is survived by one or more of his or her parents, or by one or more of the issue of one or more of his or her parents; or

  • All of the net separate estate, if there is no surviving issue nor parent nor issue of parent.

RCW 11.04.015(1).

Be sure to consult with a Washington attorney in order to learn more about the rights afforded to surviving spouse with regard to his or her entitlement to an elective share, homestead or award in lieu of homestead, family allowance, exempt property, and social security benefits.

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