Misconceptions About Washington State Probate, Part II

Posted on: Aug 25, 2015

Last month we covered two common misconceptions about probate in Washington State. It is never easy for a family when a loved one dies. Many people assume that estate administration will only add to the stress and anxiety of the situation. However, Elder Law Group strives to make this process as easy and effective as possible. Here are two more misconceptions when it comes to probate:
Misconception 3:  Probate is expensive.
This is usually not the case in Washington State. In other states, attorneys may charge a percentage of the estate’s value, but that is not true in our state. Here, attorneys generally charge an hourly rate for assisting the Personal Representative in handling probate, charging only for the specific services rendered. There are also minimal fixed charges for court filing, obtaining legal authority by Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration to handle estate business and recording documents like real property deeds.
Often the cost is dictated by how your estate is organized (see response to Misconception 1 above), what the Personal Representative can or is willing to handle and what the attorney must handle. Elder Law Group can help you streamline the process so that you plan ahead, minimize fees, avoid costly errors and protect your assets.
Misconception 4: A Revocable Living Trust will help you avoid probate.
Many people believe that putting their assets in a Revocable Living Trust (RLT) will shield them from the probate process, but this can be a costly assumption. For the reasons previously discussed, you may find probate helpful, and in many instances, it should not or cannot be avoided.
If you or your spouse needs Long-Term Care benefits during your lifetime, often you will need to liquidate your RLT in order to qualify. This kind of trust becomes irrevocable by definition upon your death but provides no asset protection for your surviving spouse or disabled child who needs Long-Term Care benefits.  Under Washington’s current Medicaid rules, a probate is required to protect assets and thus often is recommended for that benefit alone.
Money spent to create a RLT would often be better spent creating an estate plan that incorporates Medicaid Asset Preservation Strategies®, and plans for the probate process to create a different kind of trust, a Supplemental Needs Trust. This will effectively protect at least your half of your estate and not interfere should your spouse or disabled child need future Long-Term Care benefits. You may find yourself paying to create an RLT and then paying again to have it liquidated.
During probate, Elder Law Group can assist with the proper transfer of assets to the Trustee you name. We educate and support the Trustee you appoint in carrying out his or her fiduciary duties on behalf of your Trust’s beneficiaries.
Do not allow yourself to be misled by those who would tell you that probate is an evil to be avoided. For many people in Washington State, it is by far the best option for administering the estate of a loved one. Elder Law Group can help you decide if probate would be beneficial for your situation, streamline and simplify the probate process and help you effectively plan ahead to protect your assets and your family’s future. During the difficult time that follows the death of a loved one, a properly planned estate, anticipating probate, is your final gift to your family. Give us a call to start planning to preserve your estate and, if appropriate, preparing for future probate of your estate.

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