Definition: Bond

In the context of estate planning and probate, a bond is a specific sum of money (or a written promise to pay that money) deposited with the court as insurance that a person will meet certain stated obligations. If those obligations are satisfied, the bond may be returned to the depositor. If the obligations are not satisfied, then the funds are forfeited (or the written promise to pay is enforced).

A court may impose the requirement of a bond upon a person serving in a fiduciary role (i.e., personal representative, custodian, guardian, etc.) to help ensure that the person will properly perform their duties.

A bond may be with or without surety. A bond with surety is one where the fiduciary purchases an insurance policy (called a “surety bond”) from an insurance or bond company, then deposits that policy with the court in place of money. A bond without surety is one where the fiduciary deposits actual funds instead of buying and depositing a surety bond.

In Washington, a bond for a personal representative is not required if:

  • the testator states in his or her will that he or she does not require bond;
  • the personal representative is also the surviving spouse or state-registered domestic partner, the estate appears to be solvent, and the spouse/partner will receive the assets of the estate; or
  • a bank or trust company is appointed as personal representative.

The court also has the discretion to waive the requirement of a bond.1