Probate is the legal process of transferring assets from someone who has died to their heirs or beneficiaries and settling with creditors. When there is a Will, it is admitted to probate by the court and a Personal Representative (also known as Executor or Executrix) is appointed to distribute the assets as stated in the Will.
When there is no Will, the court applies the laws of intestacy to determine how the person’s property will be divided. The intestacy laws may limit inheritance by a spouse when there are assets that were owned prior to marriage, inherited or owned by children when a parent was divorced and remarried. A Will allows you to distribute your assets to your loved ones and ensure your wishes are followed. Without a Will, even if your wishes are known, they cannot be followed if they conflict with intestacy laws.
There are situations that may allow property to pass without probate, such as:
- Estates with assets totaling less than $100,000 and no real estate may be settled by way of an affidavit procedure
- Assets with beneficiary designations such as life insurance policies
- Bank accounts or joint tenant with right of survivorship or payable on death
- Assets subject to a Community Property Agreement
- Assets titled in a Trust
Probate should not be feared, however. It can be extremely beneficial! Especially if Long-Term Care is needed, a married couple should incorporate Medicaid Asset Preservation Strategies that are only available through probate. A Revocable Living Trust may sometimes avoid the probate process, but provides no asset protection for the surviving spouse who needs Long-Term Care benefits. Under Washington’s current Medicaid rules, a probate is required to protect assets for the surviving spouse and thus often is recommended for its benefit to the surviving spouse.
A Supplemental Needs Trust created by a person’s Will or a Trust created during a person’s lifetime will also need to be administered post-death. We can assist with the proper transfer of assets to the Trustee you name, and with educating and supporting the Trustee in carrying out his or her fiduciary duties on behalf of the Trust’s beneficiaries.
Losing a loved one is always difficult. Elder Law Group PLLC works with you to streamline the estate administration process. Probate fees are based on the services rendered, not a percentage of the estate value. A properly planned estate anticipating probate is a gift to your family and loved ones. Let us help you with the planning necessary to make the process as easy as possible by:
- Avoiding probate where it is not necessary or beneficial
- Simplifying the probate process
- Reducing or eliminating taxes and state liens
- Protecting your estate from unnecessary creditor claims
- Making sure your wishes are carried out
- Providing for your loved ones
- Protecting assets