Flynn and Associates’ knowledgeable probate law team has experience guiding families through this challenging time.
Probate and estate matters are complex and it’s already a difficult time. When dealing with a trust or probate there are financial knots to untangle – and sometimes family tensions to ease. You don’t need to handle it alone. We formed the Seattle probate law team to help you, when you need it most.
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Top Probate Attorneys Seattle, WA: Flynn & Associates, PLLC
Very few experiences in a person’s life are more challenging and impactful than the loss of a loved one. This time can be even more challenging when you have been tasked with administering your loved one’s estate.
It’s not unreasonable to assume that your loved one’s will should contain all of the relevant directions as to how the estate will be handled, but this is not necessarily true. Perhaps the decedent did not have a will, or had a different type of estate plan, such as a revocable living trust. In each scenario, the responsibility of handling the estate is critically important. The experience can be tedious, complex, and overwhelming. Hiring an experienced Seattle probate lawyer during this time can not only a relief, it may help you avoid unforeseen liabilities that may arise along the way. The legal process surrounding how the estate will be administered is known as probate.
Probate administration is the legal process through which all assets and liabilities of a person’s estate are administered after that person passes away. If a person passes away after having executed a valid will, the person has died testate, and the personal representative named in the will is responsible for petitioning the court for an order granting him or her the powers necessary to administer the estate. If a person passes away without having executed a valid will, the person has died intestate, and his or her assets and liabilities must be disposed of pursuant to the intestacy laws of the State of Washington.
When a loved one passes away, one of the first legal steps is to determine whether the decedent left a valid will and to locate any estate planning documents. Often, individuals store their estate planning documents in a safe in their home or in a safety deposit box. If your loved one stored his or her estate planning documents in a safety deposit box, you may need to obtain authorization from the court in order to gain access to them.
If the decedent has left a will, probate begins by proving to the court that the will was validly executed. In most cases, the decedent has already chosen the person he or she wishes to administer the estate; this person is called the personal representative. If the decedent has not left a will, the court will appoint an individual to administer the estate; this person is called an administrator.
Being a personal representative or executor is often not easy. Among other things, the personal representative is tasked with proving the will to the court, obtaining necessary court documents, creating an inventory of estate assets and liabilities, publishing notice of the decedent’s passing to known and unknown creditors, paying the decedent’s bills, and closing active accounts that are no longer needed, such as the decedent’s cable bill. An experienced Seattle probate lawyer can help guide you through each step of the process.
No. A power of attorney is a legal instrument by which the principal grants an individual the power to act as the principal’s agent under certain enumerated circumstances while the principal is alive. The power of attorney terminates at death, meaning that if you held power of attorney for the decedent, your powers are no longer effective as of the date of death of the decedent.
Not necessarily. There are certain circumstances under which filing for probate is not necessary. However, there are many times when the administration of an estate may benefit from the probate process regardless of whether it is required.
For example, even a meticulously detailed will may not account for every asset owned by an estate at the time of the decedent’s passing. The probate process can provide guidance to the personal representative with respect to how unaccounted for assets should be disposed of or distributed.
It is not uncommon for family members to experience disagreements after a loved one passes. For example, a beneficiary may challenge the validity of the will or allege that the will is the product of undue influence. Under these circumstances, the probate process and intervention of the court can be a valuable guide. Where disputes such as this arise, Washington’s Trust and Estate Dispute Resolution Act provides the legal framework for addressing these issues. Whether you are the personal representative or an heir or beneficiary, you will want an experienced Seattle trust & estate litigation attorney well-versed in this area of law to be your advocate.
Many people wish to avoid the probate process altogether. There are many reasons why probate may seem disadvantageous. Formal probate has been known to be unnecessarily time-consuming and perhaps expensive. Probate also requires court action, which means that it is subject to public record. Family matters are often private, and people may wish to keep it that way. Not all estates are legally required to pass through probate. If administration of the estate is relatively simple, the estate’s assets are valued at or under $100,000 and the estate is solvent, then the estate may possibly bypass probate.
When forming their estate plans, individuals may wish to design them in such a way that avoids the need for probate after their passing.
For example, a revocable living trust is one type of legal instrument commonly used to direct the disposition of assets that does not require the probate process. The creator, or settlor, of a revocable living trust can set forth terms directing how the trust is to be managed, both during his or her life as well as after death. The settlor retains the power to revoke, amend, or otherwise alter the trust at any time during his or her life.
Yes. As a personal representative, accounting for the assets of an estate can be a time-consuming, complicated, and emotional experience. Most assets should be mentioned in the will, but this is not always the case. If a will is not up to date, or if the estate has acquired additional assets since the will was written, the process of creating a comprehensive inventory becomes even more difficult. While this task can be daunting, you don’t have to go it alone. A seasoned Seattle probate attorney can help.
There are two categories of estate assets: those that are subject to probate and those that are not. Estate assets which are subject to probate include, but are not limited to, real property, certain community property, personal property, and specific individual accounts with no named beneficiaries.
Estate assets which are not subject to probate include, but are not limited to, benefit plans from employers, real property held in joint tenancy, federal savings bonds, payable on death accounts, retirement accounts with named beneficiaries, life insurance policies, almost any asset contained in a revocable living trust, and transfer of death investments and securities.
When a loved one dies, the estate and its assets are not the only matters for which the personal representative is responsible. The debts and taxes owed by the estate are also equally important and will require the full attention of the personal representative.
If the debts of an estate are greater than the value of its assets, the estate is considered “insolvent.” An insolvent estate must pass through the probate court. Depending on the facts and circumstances, the personal representative may have limited powers and additional duties; an experienced Seattle probate attorney can help you navigate these murky waters.
Whether you are the personal representative or an heir or beneficiary of an estate, you may find yourself overwhelmed by the legal tasks or duties required of you. Experienced legal representation can help. At the offices of Flynn & Associates PLLC, we are committed to seeing you through this difficult time.