Our Experienced Seattle Probate Attorneys Help Clients During Difficult Times
Our Seattle probate attorney at Dickson Frohlich can help you avoid the problems that may come with the probate process. We can also create an estate plan that will make you feel confident your loved ones will be provided for and your plans will be put into action. Our probate lawyers will handle your estate effectively, efficiently, and professionally while providing you with excellent, personal service.
You need to find a Seattle probate lawyer you can trust. We earn our clients’ trust every day by educating them about the law, giving them options, creating plans that work, properly writing legal documents, and making sure their plans are put into action. Dickson Frohlich probate lawyers will help you and your family with any probate matters you face.
Seattle Washington Probate Attorneys
Our probate services include the following:
Explaining the legal process after a relative has passed on, and postmortem estate planning
Assisting you in filing a will
Protecting your assets for heirs/beneficiaries
Assistance with contesting a will, including claims of undue influence
Representation in probate, estate, and trust litigation
Formal and summary probate administration
Estate and trust administration
Representation of personal representatives
Appointment of a special administrator
Discover What Makes Dickson Frohlich Probate Attorneys Different
You can leave the court filings, paperwork, tax issues, phone calls, inventorying, etc., to us, letting you live your life and focus on your family.
Experience and Compassion – We understand that you and your family may be going through a very difficult time. Making your final arrangements or coping with the estate of a loved one can be very stressful. Probate disputes, on top of the loss of a loved one, can result in family disputes. Put our decades of experience as Seattle probate attorneys to work for you. Our thoughtful, accurate, and timely handling of your loved one’s personal and financial matters will help smooth the process and reduce stress as much as possible. You can confidently leave the court filings, paperwork, tax issues, phone calls, inventorying, etc., to us, letting you live your life and focus on your family.
Skilled Probate Attorneys – Estate planning and probate are highly specialized areas of law. Over the years, our attorneys have learned the skills and gained the experience needed to help you and your family get the results you want. Using an attorney who handles these matters part-time could give you problems you want to avoid. Don’t hire an attorney who will be learning while working for you.
Affordability – Estate planning and probate help isn’t just for the rich. Dickson Frohlich is committed to providing great service in all areas of probate, trust, and estate planning, at rates you can afford. Our fees may be a fraction of the cost of the problems that could result if you proceed without legal advice or representation. At this stressful time, don’t let surprise legal fees add to your worries. At Dickson Frohlich, we won’t hesitate to give you a price over the phone for the services we can provide.
Estate planning and probate help isn’t just for the wealthy.
For more information or to talk about your concerns, just call our offices in Seattle or Tacoma for a free phone discussion at 206-621-1110. Our team of probate attorneys in Seattle looks forward to working with you.
Our Seattle Probate & Estate Law Practice Areas
WHAT DOES A PROBATE ATTORNEY DO?
Many individuals appointed as personal representatives don’t know how the probate process works or what obligations must be fulfilled before the estate’s assets can be distributed. Our Seattle probate lawyers can provide you with the advice and guidance you need to successfully administer an estate.
We can assist you with the wide variety of issues that can arise from a loved one’s death and the subsequent transfer of assets. When you retain our probate attorneys, we will handle a broad range of tasks for you, including:
We file the probate petition to get the executor established by the court. There are numerous pleadings that must be filed with the probate court, including an inventory and appraisal of the estate assets. We also make arguments to the court if there is a will contest or the validity of the will is questioned.
Creditors of the estate must be given notice of the probate action. We address the creditors’ claims and respond to any inquiries.
We know how to minimize estate taxes to help ensure that the bulk of the estate is passed to beneficiaries, rather than to the government.
We help transfer the deceased’s title to real estate and other assets to the named beneficiaries.
If a minor child has lost his/her parents, we assist with issues related to establishing a legal guardian for the minor.
In some cases, we are named in the deceased’s will as the executor of the estate. This means that we are paid a fee out of the estate to handle all tasks related to the probate of the will.
Seattle Probate Attorneys
Our Seattle Probate Lawyers Can Help You Understand Probate Law
Though the probate process is not always needed, it’s a good idea to follow it. If correctly done, the process can protect the estate’s personal representative (the person in charge of the estate) from legal claims and ensure that the estate is correctly distributed to the beneficiaries (those named in the will to receive assets).
Duties of a Personal Representative
He or she organizes the estate’s important documents and wealth, pays debts and taxes, and, with what’s left over, spreads the assets according to the will’s instructions. The process helps those owed money by the deceased and creates the beneficiaries’ rights to the deceased’s assets. If there is no valid will, assets remaining would be sent to the person’s closest family members, based on Washington state’s probate law.
The Difference Between “Intestate” and “Testate”
If the deceased has a will, he or she died “testate.” If there is no will or the person made what he or she thought was a valid will, but the person was mistaken, the person died “intestate.” Washington state law spells out which family members may get assets from the estate. A will would provide you some control over how your assets are shared after your death, such as going to non-family members or nonprofit groups.
How Probate and Non-Probate Assets Differ
An estate can have non-probate and probate assets. The difference between the two is:
- The language of the legal documents creating non-probate assets controls what happens to them.
- Probate assets are controlled by the will, or state law if there is no will.
The most common types of non-probate assets are:
- Bank and financial accounts set up by the decedent and another person which have “right of survivorship” language (if one dies before the other, the survivor owns what’s in the account).
- Property owned in “joint tenancy” with rights of survivorship, which means both parties own it. If one dies before the other, the survivor owns the property.
- Assets that are community property (owned by two people) under state law, assuming there’s a marriage or a community-property agreement.
- Life insurance policies with a beneficiary who will get the proceeds when the insured dies (as long as the designated beneficiary is not the estate).
- Any other assets controlled by a beneficiary. They could include a 401(k) or an investment account naming someone as the beneficiary if the account holder dies.
Six Important Questions Our Probate Lawyer Answers
Probate law covers what happens to a deceased person’s property after their death. Their assets (their possessions and wealth) and liabilities (taxes, fees, debts, bills) become their “estate,” which legally owns them after their death. Through probate, it’s decided what will be done with both: which bills must get paid, which assets are sold to pay them, who gets what assets that are left over.
The probate process applies whether or not there is a will. Through a will you can nominate someone to be responsible for the estate; the court will decide who will be the personal representative. Where there is no will, people can ask the court for that job. If you have a will and a minor child, you can also nominate your child’s guardian. Your will should include named beneficiaries. These are people, charities, or trusts who will get assets after your debts are paid. Without a will, the next of kin get the assets based on state statute.
An estate that’s “small” need not go through the whole probate process. If the assets’ value subject to probate — not including a surviving spouse’s or domestic partner’s community property interest, less liens and encumbrances — is $100,000 or less, there are much simpler procedures. Assets that need not be probated and wouldn’t count toward the $100,000 include:
- Those owned in joint tenancy with others
- Assets that are part of a community-property agreement which is signed by the deceased and their spouse or domestic partner
- Where a beneficiary is named outside a will. This includes bank, investment, and retirement accounts; life insurance proceeds; and pension benefits.
- Assets held by a revocable living trust.
An inheritor would create an affidavit and file it with the court. It would state that they’re entitled to a certain asset, along with other facts. If it, along with the death certificate, is presented to the party holding an asset, it should be released to the inheritor. Written notice must be sent to other inheritors at least 10 days before filing the affidavit.
Probate requires many documents and a lot of information. If it’s possible, start preparing before your loved one passes away. If he or she is elderly, chronically ill, or severely disabled, get answers from them so you’ll waste as little time as possible after their death. You should:
- Find a will and any codicils (changes to the will). If there are none, ask your family member to consider estate planning so their wishes can be followed. If you can’t find a will, contact your family’s attorney, if you have one, to see if a will was executed. Ask family members or friends to see if the deceased talked about a will and where it might be. You could also search through files and safe deposit boxes where important papers are held.
- Order several copies of the death certificate.
- Find and organize life insurance policies, property appraisals, bank and investment account information, as well as documents concerning real estate, vehicle, and investment ownership. You should also get income and property tax documents.
You should hire a Dickson Frohlich probate lawyer because we will give you peace of mind. A complex process will be taken care of; you’ll be fully aware of what’s going on; we’ll advise you about what needs to be done; and you’ll be able to spend your time living your life – not learning probate law or spending time in court.
Our probate attorneys in Seattle know the process and will keep the case moving as quickly as possible. Required notices will be sent and pleadings will be filed in court. Your family may pull together after your loved one’s death or pull apart due to arguments over inheritances. We will keep you on track and doing the right things if this happens. Our firm will also deal with creditors and tax authorities.
A probate lawyer will file necessary tax forms and make sure inheritances are distributed properly, obtain releases, and make sure the estate is finalized and closed by the court. We will also defend you and the estate in any court challenges.
In Washington State, the Superior Court is responsible for the process. Under state law, it should start in the county where the decedent resided or died or where the property owned by a nonresident decedent is located.
COMMON ESTATE PLANNING MISTAKES THAT CAN LEAD TO PROBATE PROBLEMS
(Or what not to do when preparing your will and powers of attorney)
Mistakes you make could cause a lot of stress, conflict, expense, wasted time, and money by your personal representative and beneficiaries.
Estate planning mistakes probably won’t impact you personally, because most legal documents and the probate process take effect after your death. There are mistakes that could lead to a lawsuit about whether the will is legal. As probate lawyers, we represent parties on both sides of these disputes.
Mistake 1: Not Doing Any Estate Planning
Whether you plan ahead and name beneficiaries through a will or decide not to have a will so your closest family members get your property after you die, your property will be divided up. If you want a say in who gets it, create a will.
A lawful estate plan will make sure your wealth will go to those you want to receive it (assuming there are assets after costs, debts, and taxes are paid). If you want to support a charity, you must donate during your life or use estate planning to support it after you pass away.
Mistake 2: Failing to Keep Your Estate Plan Current
Update your estate plan. Your life changes. Children become adults. Your assets may increase or decrease. Someone you wanted to be a beneficiary may die before you do or become financially well off and not need your help. Your family may grow or shrink. Relationships change. You may lose touch with people who once were close to you. Over time you may want to support different causes or people. Changing your estate plan over time can reflect the changes in your life.
Mistake 3: Failing to Plan for Incapacity
Estate planning isn’t just writing a will so that you will have some control over your assets after you pass away. It’s also about limiting the harm that could happen if you lose mental and/or physical ability while you’re alive. You can create different powers of attorney, documents that allow others to make decisions for you.
- A financial power of attorney gives someone the ability to control your finances. It can be very wide (covering all your financial matters), very narrow (using one account to pay certain bills), or somewhere in between.
- A healthcare power of attorney will name someone to make medical decisions for you if you can’t make them yourself. They also have instructions on what kind of treatment you want and don’t want. A healthcare directive or living will is similar but goes into effect only if you’re terminally ill.
Mistake 4: Confusing or Contradictory Documents
Estate planning documents should be simple and clear. They should plainly state how your wealth should be shared and who gets it. Complicated or confusing ways to share wealth or making rules about how people can benefit from the estate will probably create problems among your family members. Heirs could sue your estate over the will’s legality. Wills shouldn’t leave people confused or guessing.
Mistake 5: Failing to Understand What Might Happen to Non-Probate Assets or Those Not Mentioned in Your Will
A will does not impact joint or shared accounts with “right of survivorship” (see above). If you don’t want the person with a legal right to your account to gain ownership after your death, you need to make changes while you still can.
Mistake 6: Creating or Altering a Will for the Wrong Reasons
There are right and wrong reasons to create a will. A proper reason is to help people and causes you care about. A wrong reason is to try to control a family member’s life after your death or to vent your anger.
If someone close to you has made you angry, think long and hard before changing your will to exclude them or sharply reduce what they may get. Trying to use your assets as a carrot, or withholding them as a stick, so that someone will act a certain way may leave family members angry and upset. It could also cause lawsuits.