Spokane Probate Lawyers
Probate is the legal process required to give effect to a will and otherwise settle the parts of an estate that are not already settled through the use of trusts and other mechanisms outside of probate. If you are an estate administrator with questions about how to proceed through the probate process, or if you are an heir to an estate with concerns about how probate is being handled, the probate attorneys at Moulton Law Offices, P.S., can answer your questions and provide skilled assistance to guide you through the process. If you are presently in the stages of planning your estate and want to know if there are ways to minimize or avoid probate, our practiced estate planning attorneys can explore many options with you to craft an estate plan that meets your needs while avoiding probate as much as possible. Whatever your needs, Moulton Law Offices is here for you. Contact our experienced Spokane probate lawyers today.
How Probate Works in Washington
A will can do many things, including naming a guardian for minor children, naming an executor for the estate, and transferring assets in the estate to heirs. Before the will can be given effect, though, it must be presented to the court and proven to be valid. If the will was professionally prepared by an experienced estate planning attorney, it is likely “self-proving” and will be accepted by the court without additional steps required. The court will appoint an executor or personal representative (PR) of the estate (usually the person named in the will if so designated) who must then perform several tasks to give effect to the will. This includes sending a notice to the state of Washington in case there are claims against the estate and publishing notices so that any creditors of the estate have an opportunity to bring claims as well. The PR is responsible for paying valid claims out of the estate or defending against spurious claims.
The PR pays all debts belonging to the estate, prepares and files tax returns for the estate, and files court documents as required. Once debts and taxes are paid, the PR can then distribute assets and transfer title to property from the estate to heirs and beneficiaries as outlined in the will. Until the assets are divvied up, the PR is responsible for conscientiously managing and preserving the property.
Probate can be supervised or unsupervised. If probate is unsupervised, the PR performs these tasks without having to seek court approval first. In a supervised probate, the judge in charge of the estate must approve every action the PR takes in the probate process. Unsupervised probate can become supervised at any time, usually when someone expresses concern about how the estate administration is being conducted.
The task of probate administration can be overwhelming and complex. The Spokane probate lawyers at Moulton Law Offices can help with many of the tasks that require special skill or expertise, taking the most difficult or time-consuming responsibilities off your plate at a time when you are likely dealing with a host of other issues in your life other than probating your loved one’s will.
Avoiding Probate in the First Place
Probate can be costly and time-consuming. It’s a hassle and a headache for the estate administrator, and it draws out the time before heirs can receive their inheritance. Avoiding probate is therefore a primary and laudable goal of estate planning, and it is a goal we excel at achieving at the Moulton Law Offices, P.S. There are many steps you can take to transfer assets outside of probate so that your heirs receive their inheritance sooner and with less cost to the estate. Our estate planning and probate lawyers are happy to explore options with you and help you create the best estate plan that meets your needs. Some common ways to avoid or minimize probate are discussed below.
Revocable Living Trust
When property is placed in a revocable living trust during your lifetime, those assets belong to the trust and are no longer considered part of your estate. The trust holds legal title to the trust assets, and you name a trustee to manage those assets for the sake of the beneficiaries named in the trust. You can serve as the trustee during your lifetime and manage the trust assets for your own benefit. After you are gone, a successor trustee whom you named will manage the assets and distribute them to beneficiaries according to your wishes. A home and other valuable property can be placed in a revocable living trust.
Other Means to Avoid Probate
Your estate plan can include other ways to transfer property outside of probate in addition to a revocable living trust. Life insurance policies and retirement plans with designated beneficiaries don’t have to go through probate. Property owned as joint tenants with rights of survivorship passes outside of probate, but this method of holding property can expose the asset to lawsuits and creditors of the co-owner. Bank accounts with “transfer on death” or “pay on death” designations don’t have to go through probate, but this method can result in unequal distribution among heirs or go against your wishes in a will.
As you can see, there are pros and cons to these other methods of avoiding probate. The probate and estate planning attorneys at Moulton Law Offices offer sound advice and guidance to help you minimize or avoid probate while still ensuring that your estate plan meets all of your needs and goals.
Contact Moulton Law Offices for Help With Probate Matters in Spokane
If you are an estate administrator or heir needing help with probate in the city of Spokane or Spokane County, or for advice and assistance regarding how to craft a comprehensive estate plan that avoids or minimizes probate as much as possible, call the experienced Spokane probate lawyers at Moulton Law Offices, P.S., today.