If unpaid wages are owed to an employee at the time of his or her death and no executor or administrator has been appointed to handle the employee's estate, the funds may be paid to the employee's surviving spouse upon request (WA Code Sec. 49.48.120). The law applies only to wage debts of $2,500 or less. If there is no surviving spouse, payment is made to the employee's children, and if there are no children, to the employee's parents. The employer must obtain proof of the claimant's relationship to the deceased employee and a receipt for the amount paid. Any payments made by an employer operate as a full discharge of the employer's debt for the amount paid to the deceased employee's estate.
If there is a valid community property agreement between the deceased employee and the surviving spouse, the employer must pay the surviving spouse under the terms of the agreement. The surviving spouse must provide the employer with a copy of the agreement and an affidavit stating that the agreement was executed in good faith.
If the wage debt exceeds $2,500 or if an employer has questions, the local court of probate should be contacted for instructions.
If the employer is the state of Washington, it must pay wage debts up to $10,000 or the amount set by the Washington director of financial management under administrative policy.