Probate Attorney in Vancouver, Washington
Managing a loved one’s affairs when they die is not easy as it may seem. Probate is one of the many things that you’ll have to deal with. It’s hard to lose someone you love while sorting out all of the legal and financial complexities resulting from probate.
The probate process can be very difficult for families. In this situation, our credible Washington estate planning lawyers at Robert Russell Law Office can ensure administration of the estate goes as smoothly and transparently as possible. Contact our estate planning law firm now to schedule a free initial consultation by video or phone.
Why Do I Need a Probate Attorney in Washington?
Probate is a complex and time-consuming process. Even with the best estate planning documents and harmonious relationships between beneficiaries, probate can still be a confusing and lengthy process for those unfamiliar with probate law.
Navigating the probate process on your own can feel like just too much after losing your loved one. You need a reliable Vancouver probate attorney who can ensure the process goes smoothly and that the estate complies with Washington state laws.
- At Robert Russell Law Office, we represent individuals and families on all sides of complex estate administration matters, including executors, personal representatives, trustees, beneficiaries, and others.
- We provide valuable legal advice on how to create and update wills, establish trusts, create business succession plans, set up guardianships, prepare powers of attorney, and, overall, put estate plans in order.
- Each client we represent has unique circumstances and priorities, which is why we take the time to gain a true understanding of your objectives.
Our legal team can clearly and comprehensively explain to you the estate planning laws and statutes that you need to know. We assist with wills, trusts, estate administration, and litigation that arises during the probate process. Schedule a free initial video or phone consultation with one of our qualified Vancouver estate planning attorneys.
What is Probate?
Probate is a court-supervised process of administering the estate of a person who has passed away. The probate process involves validating a will, appointing someone to carry out the terms of the will, paying off outstanding debts, and distributing assets to chosen beneficiaries. A skilled Vancouver probate lawyer can help you understand how the probate process works.
If a deceased person has a will, the probate court determines if the will is authentic and valid. Then, the court appoints a personal representative or an executor, typically the person named in the will to administer the estate. On the other hand, if the deceased person dies without a will, they die intestate. In this case, the court distributes the assets according to Washington intestacy laws.
What are the Assets That Go Through Probate?
Not everything you own will automatically go through probate. Determining whether an estate has assets that are not subject to probate can save you time and money. A trusted probate attorney in Vancouver WA can help you determine whether your assets are subject to probate.
A probate asset is any asset with a title that does not have a named beneficiary or a co-owner with a right of survivorship. Probate is necessary only for property that was:
- owned solely in the name of the deceased person (including bank accounts, vehicles, real estate, or other titled assets)
- a share of property owned as “tenants in common”
On the other hand, property and assets that do not go through probate are:
- Real estate owned in joint tenancy
- Any property held in a trust
- Bank and investment accounts with transfer-on-death beneficiaries
- Life insurance policies with named beneficiaries
- IRA and retirement accounts with transfer-on-death beneficiaries
- Lifetime gifts and distributions
How Does the Probate Process Work?
With or without a will, a deceased person’s estate must be settled and distributed. The exact probate process can vary depending on the instructions left in the will and the assets, creditors, and beneficiaries the estate has. A knowledgeable Vancouver probate lawyer can help you with any stage of the probate proceedings and avoid problems that may arise during the process. Probate typically involves the following steps:
Submit a Death Certificate
To begin the probate process, a personal representative or executor of the estate will file the death certificate with the probate court along with the will. If there is no will, the court will initiate procedures for intestate probate.
Validate the Will
Next, a probate court judge determines whether the will is legally valid. The court must ensure that it is the actual will of the testator.
Appoint an Executor or Personal Representative
The probate court judge appoints the personal representative or executor named in your will. Without a will, the judge will appoint another person to handle the estate. A personal representative is responsible for handling and distributing the estate.
Post a Bond
Since a personal representative will handle assets, money, and property, the court may require him or her to post a probate bond.
Identify Beneficiaries and Notify Creditors
One of the tasks of a personal representative is to identify the beneficiaries and alert the creditors of the probate administration. The creditors will be given a time frame to submit claims against the estate. The personal representative can dispute or settle creditor claims on behalf of the estate.
Determine the Estate Value
The personal representative must determine the value of all probate assets. He or she is responsible for the inventory of personal property and real estate appraisals.
Pay Valid Debts
The common debts usually paid from the estate include last illness expenses, funeral expenses, and estate taxes.
Distribute Assets to Heirs
After paying estate claims, debts, and taxes, the remaining assets will be distributed to the named beneficiaries in the will. Without a will, then the beneficiaries will receive distributions according to state intestacy laws.
Close the Estate
Before closing the estate, the final accounting report must be submitted to the court. All the assets of the estate, income generated on those assets, debts paid, and distributions made to the beneficiaries must be included in the report. When the court accepts the report, the personal representative will be discharged from their probate duties and formally close the probate estate.