What is Probate?
Probate is the legal process, defined by each state, to settle the affairs of a deceased individual. It is the process of distributing a person’s assets and paying off debts after that person passes away. The personal representative (formerly known as an executor) handles creditors and distributes the assets of the estate.
How long is probate?
Luckily Washington has one of the shortest and simplest probate processes in the country, lasting about 4-6 months. Most of that time is spent waiting out the 4-month period creditors have to make a valid claim against the estate. Compared to a state like California, where probates last an average of 18 months, Washington state probate is relatively quick in most cases.
Is probate hard?
Probate is not particularly difficult, especially if family members get along.
What Happens if There is No Will in Probate?
If there is no will, probate can still move forward. The state has laws that will determine where your things will go, but keep in mind this may not be in line with what you might have intended. Having a Will can help provide some guidance, but if you own property, have income or investments you’d liked distributed in a certain manner, it’s best to have a Trust. You can learn more about when to consider a Trust HERE. With a Trust, you decide where your property goes, not the state.
What are the Main Problems Encountered in Probate?
One of the biggest problems involved in probate is determining who should have what. When there is no will or other estate planning documents, problems arise. Particularly if people feel left out or cheated. That is why it’s important to have an estate plan in place so your loved ones do not have to question what is supposed to happen should you pass. It also moves the process along quickly.
Should you avoid probate?
Not necessarily. Simple estates and good family relationships, typically means probate will go smoothly.
How can I avoid probate?
There are several ways to avoid probate, such as:
Do family members have to pay the deceased person’s debts personally?
Only if the family member has co-signed on the debt. Otherwise, family members are NOT personally liable. However, the deceased person’s home may be foreclosed on if there is an outstanding mortgage. Credit cards, medical bills, and other debts only in the deceased person’s name do NOT have to be paid by the surviving family members.
Will my estate be subject to estate taxes?
It depends. There are 2 possible estate taxes that may apply. Federal estate tax (applies to estates worth greater than $11.4 million), and WA estate tax (applies to estates worth greater than $2.2 million). There is no estate tax if you pass away with less than $2.01 million.
Is there an inheritance tax?
There is no federal inheritance tax, and WA does not have an inheritance tax. However some other states do have an inheritance tax, so if you have a loved one living in a state other than WA, it’s best to do a little research.
Here at Tacoma Elder Care, Bob Michaels can assist you with any concern you might have regarding your provisions, or provisions in place for a loved one. We highly recommend you attend one of our Free Workshops (you can register HERE), or schedule a Free consultation HERE.