Probate is the formal process of changing ownership and title upon the death of the owner. Unlike a great amount of misinformation told about probate, the process in Washington state is very streamlined and organized. In many cases, the fees you end up paying are fees you likely will pay regardless (ie accountant, lawyer for advice on title change or deeds, appraiser, etc).
In a normal probate, the entire process starts by asking a judge to determine and sign an order that there was a death and it has been proven to the court. This then issues either Letters of Administration or Letters Testamentary, the client’s crucial document to show banks or government agencies. Institutions should not make these changes without these documents, unless the asset is a non-probate item or governed by some other contractual relationship that passes outside of probate.
Attorneys can help in a variety of ways for probate, from simply helping with opening and closing, all the way to walking a client through, step by step, and essentially becoming a sub-agent helping marshal and distribute property.