While the steps in administering an estate in Washington State can be complex, it’s not too difficult provided you have proper legal representation to assist you throughout the process. At Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess, we have many years of experience in assisting our clients with estate law and proper estate planning. Here is a broad overview of the estate administration process and why it is so important for you and your family.
Why Estate Administration Is Needed
While you may have drafted a will, this does not address every aspect of estate administration. Your will can be well-written and detailed and still not handle all the issues with your estate, such as the distribution of property. How property and other assets are distributed among your heirs is often an issue with estates, and it’s one you want to avoid if possible. Closing an estate involves several steps, and depending on the nature and complexity of your estate this can vary. Here are some of the common steps in the administration of an estate:
Opening an Estate Account
One of the first steps in estate management is the opening of an estate account. This is a separate account specifically set up to handle liquid assets such as your bank account funds, savings, and other income sources. You should not have your personal accounts used for estate management after you have passed on. Once all direct deposits have ended, all your existing bank accounts should be closed and all liquid assets moved to the estate account. Your estate manager will pay all bills, debt, and taxes from this main account, which keeps the records clear and easy to understand. If you have many liquid assets, a money market account may be needed in addition to an estate account.
The next step in administering your estate is taking a proper inventory of your property and assets. This is done to not only properly record everything that you own but also to assign a value to these items. An “asset” is a broad term and can include (but is not limited to) employee benefits, security accounts, other types of financial accounts, land, homes, other types of property or real estate, automobiles, and all other types of personal property. An inventory should include all things you own, including harder-to-value items such as heirlooms and items that have a high degree of emotional value.
Managing Any Debt and Taxes
When settling an estate, any outstanding debt and taxes you owe will have to be properly dealt with. Your creditors and the federal government will still need to be paid any outstanding balances you may have owed. A part of your estate planning is ensuring these matters are settled. There are proper procedures to follow to ensure these debts will not be a concern. The process includes publishing a notice to the creditors of the death and probate case, clearing any liens from titles before these titles are distributed, and making any needed payments to clear and settle your accounts. An issue that can arise includes disputing any unlawful or false creditor claims, which does delay the process. Also, income taxes will need to be filed for the year of death, verification that all past tax years have been filed as needed, and filing any business tax returns that may be needed if any. The final piece of tax paperwork is a tax return for the estate. At Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess, we can help you with making sure all debt and taxes are correctly handled.
The Distribution of Assets
The final step is the distribution of assets. After all debts and taxes have been settled, the assets that remain are distributed to heirs or beneficiaries. It is during this step in the process that any written will becomes important. While the will does not manage the estate or deal with bill settlement, it does dictate who receives what assets and property from an estate. If there is no will in the state of Washington, the court will determine the distribution of assets based on state laws concerning the distribution of real and personal estate.
About Robert Dickson
Attorney Robert Dickson focuses on various aspects of civil litigation. His key areas of legal assistance include real estate, construction, and business law. He represents a wide range of clients ranging from individuals to large companies providing needed legal assistance. When you hire him, you can rest assured he will balance your financial goals with the need for a successful legal outcome. Outside his practice, Mr. Dickson serves as an adjunct professor at the Seattle University School of Law, teaching students about real estate litigation. His full biography can be read here.
When You Need Legal Assistance for Your Estate Planning
Estate management can be a very complex thing, and depending on the size and scope of your estate there can be several factors to keep in mind. With proper legal assistance, you can ensure that your estate will be properly managed and your heirs will receive the assets you want them to as per your will and personal wishes. Contact us today for more information: residents of Seattle may call (206) 621-1110; residents of Tacoma can contact us at (253) 572-1000; and residents of Olympia can reach us at (360) 742-3500. We look forward to hearing from you and invite you to call to schedule a consultation today. Our many satisfied clients are a testament to the level of service we provide.