Avoiding County and City Subdivision Rules Through Testamentary Divisions

An Exemption Every Estate Planner, Probate Practitioner, and Real Estate Attorney Should Know and Use


The subdivision of land (plats, subdivisions and dedications) in Washington is governed by Chapter 58.17 RCW and by city and county ordinances adopted under that chapter’s authority. The purpose of the chapter is to regulate the subdivision of land and to promote public health, safety, and general welfare, in addition to creating a uniform manner for subdividing property throughout the state. 

RCW 58.17.040 also incorporates various exemptions to the subdivision rules such as divisions approved under a commercial or industrial binding site plan, boundary line adjustments, and divisions for certain types of leases. One notable exemption that is often overlooked is the exemption for divisions of land made by testamentary provisions.

Testamentary division planning creates opportunities for clients to divide property at death for the benefit of their children and heirs that they could not do during life. Understanding the opportunities and limitations of the Subdivision Exemption will help practitioners better evaluate if testamentary division planning makes sense for their clients.


By Evan McCauley – Jeffers, Danielson, Sonn & Aylward, P.S.

This article published in the Real Property, Probate & Trust Section of the Washington State Bar Association, Summer 2017