Category: Probate Law

  • Is Probate Necessary in Washington State?

    A common term that you might hear after someone passes away is “probate.” Probate is the process of administering an estate by collecting assets, settling debts, and making distributions to family members. This process is overseen by the court to ensure that the estate is properly administered and can resolve any disputes. If your loved one dies, you may wonder whether probate is necessary for your situation. In Washington State, probates aren’t mandatory. However, while that’s true from a technical standpoint, from a practical one, the majority of estates should absolutely use probate process. In other words, usually it is a benefit to file for probate, even if you do not need to. It is also important to note that while Washington law does not

  • 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

  • What Happens if You Die Without a Will in Washington?

    When you make a legally binding will and testament, you decide who gets your money, real property, and other assets after you die. But what happens if you die without a will in Washington? By law, the state decides who gets your assets through what is called “intestate succession.”  Thus, when you die without a will, you are deemed to have “died intestate.” Under Washington State intestate law, if you die without a will, your assets will go to your relatives, starting with those who are the closest surviving. Not All Assets Are Affected by Intestate Laws It’s important to point out, though, that some important assets may not be affected by intestate succession if you die without a will in Washington. These include assets for which you have

  • Steps in Administering an Estate

    Many people think that by making a will, they are taking the burden off of their family members when it comes to estate administration after their death. However, property does not magically distribute itself and there are actually several components to closing an estate. While these steps will vary depending on the nature and complexity of the estate, the following are some of the common steps in estate administration. Opening an Estate Account All transactions should go through a special account for the estate and not through the deceased person's personal accounts. Once you have stopped all direct deposits in the personal accounts, that account should be closed and all liquid assets should be transferred to the estate account. All bills, taxes, and

  • Role of a Will in Probate

    When a person dies, one of the first steps you should take is to determine whether or not they drafted a last will and testament during their life. If a will exists, Washington State law1 requires that you file it with the probate court within 40 days of the death. For this reason, the existence of a will should be determined as soon as possible after your loss. The law also permits a person to file their will with the court prior to their death, in part to ensure that the right will is used. Personal Representative A will can be used to guide different aspects of the probate process. First, a will can designate who the deceased person wanted to serve as their personal representative of their estate. This is an important designation, as the personal r

  • Inventory of Assets in a Probate Case

    In order to administer someone's estate, the personal representative must first understand the nature and amount of assets and property that needs to be distributed. Taking inventory of assets is one of the first and most important--yet often complicated--tasks in the probate process. While some assets or property may be specifically mentioned in a will, most may not be. The following are some examples of assets that may be inventoried during probate. Nonprobate Assets As the name suggests, these are assets that will be distributed outside of the probate process. Such assets include the following: Assets and property held in a living trust Property owned in joint tenancy Assets designated in community property agreements Joint financial accou

  • How a Probate Attorney Can Help the Executor of an Estate

    Death, while inevitable, is a topic that most people avoid. Even those who have developed a plan for their estate may have assets or liabilities that will still require attention after they pass away. Common examples include: paying taxes, settling debts, gathering the assets and determining proper distribution. Often times, these responsibilities are left to a family member, designated either by the deceased or by the courts.This person is called the executor of the estate. While the executor may recognize the honor of making sure their loved one's affairs are properly handled, they are understandably distracted by other emotions. Thankfully, a trained Washington probate attorney knows exactly what to do to assist an executor with these responsibili

  • The Costs of Probate

    When you think of going to court, you likely think of doling out thousands of dollars in legal fees and costs. For this reason, you may assume that probate is always expensive and you may even be worried that it will significantly diminish the value of the estate. The truth is that probate does not have to be costly and the following is some additional information about the cost of probate in the state of Washington . Probate May Not Be Necessary Washington State probate laws do not require you to file for probate for every estate. In fact, there are only certain estates--such as higher value estates--that should always be put through probate. If you have a relatively simple estate to administer and there are no legal requirements, you can skip the time

  • Common Will Disputes in Probate Court

    The law in the state of Washington1 requires any existing last will and testament to be filed w ith the courts. However, simply because a will is filed does not mean that the document will dictate the distribution of the estate. In some cases, family members or others may question the validity of the will for different reasons. The following are some examples of common will contests that may arise during probate: The Will was Not Properly Executed Washington State law requires that every will meet certain requirements to be legally valid. You cannot simply write down your wishes on a piece of paper and expect for that to be considered a valid will by the courts. Instead, the following must happen: The will must be in writing; The will must be si

  • Administering an Insolvent Estate

    When you think of administering an estate after someone dies, you likely think of handing out their money and property to family members according to their last will and testament. However, many people have financial issues and may pass away with serious debts and few assets. When you have more debts than your do assets and property, you are legally called "insolvent." So what happens when you leave behind an insolvent estate? A big part of administering an estate is settling all debts and paying necessary taxes. In some cases, however, there is not enough money to cover all of the debts and taxes. There are different options for handling this situation. First, any joint debts will still be the responsibility of the joint account-holder. Debts that ar

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