Can a Living Trust Help Avoid Probate in Washington?

Thinking about what will happen to your family after you die is unpleasant. For that reason, many people don’t take the time to evaluate the estate planning tools available to them or plan effectively for the distribution of their assets . Unless you have taken steps to avoid it, your assets will go into probate at the time of your death. The probate court will gather all of your probate assets and distribute them according to the terms of your will. If no will was drafted, the assets will be distributed according to Washington State law.1. The process of probating your estate is time-consuming, intrusive, and expensive. It can, however, be avoided with some planning. An attorney can provide you with information on a variety of estate planning tools and help you develop a comprehensive plan for all of your assets. A living trust is one common estate planning tool that can protect assets from the probate process.

Benefits of a Living Trust

There are two general kinds of assets that you hold at the time of your death: probate and non-probate property. Probate property consists of any assets held in your name alone or in which you have an interest . All probate property is distributed by the probate process overseen by the court, on the other hand, a non-probate property does not pass through the courts. Common examples include jointly
-owned bank accounts or titles with a “transfer on death” or TOD provision. Assets held in a living trust are non­ probate property and will be distributed according to the terms of the trust and without court involvement. This process is generally faster, easier and less expensive than probate.

A living trust and the distribution of its contents are controlled by the creator of the trust. A living trust can hold almost any type of assets or property and any assets placed in the living trust become exempt from the probate process. You may serve as the trustee of the living trust during your lifetime – meaning you will still have full control over the assets it holds. You may also name a co-trustee,such as a spouse, or multiple co-trustees who would also have authority over the assets. The living trust will need to specify who the successor trustee will be when the initial trustee dies. The successor trustee, not the court,will be bound by the instructions in the trust on how to distribute the assets.

By taking the time now to explore the possibility of a living trust,you could be saving your family considerable amounts of time, stress, and money down the road.

1http://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default .aspx?cite=11.04.015