Probate is the legal process of transferring assets from someone who has died to their heirs or beneficiaries and dealing with the decedent’s creditors. It is a relatively quick and inexpensive process in Washington State.
There is a misconception that probate should be avoided, or that the goal of Estate Planning is to avoid probate. However, probate should only be avoided when it is not necessary or beneficial.
When Probate is Beneficial
In Washington State probate can be used as part of an asset preservation strategy for a surviving spouse or heirs.
A Will that creates a Supplemental Needs Trust is the best asset protection tool available for people who wish to ensure their surviving spouse or heirs do not become impoverished. Assets within a Supplemental Needs Trust are not countable in the determination of Medicaid eligibility, are not subject to Estate Recovery for benefits paid, and cannot be taken by other creditors.
Probate involves filing the Will with the court. A Supplemental Needs Trust established by the Will is funded through use of the probate process. Under Washington State’s current Medicaid rules, probate is required to protect assets for a surviving spouse and thus is recommended for its benefits to the surviving spouse.
As part of our Asset Protection Estate Planning™ we address your specific issues and give you workable solutions to make the probate process as simple as possible. We will help you put in place the necessary documents to protect you, your loved ones, and your assets.
When Probate Can Be Avoided
Probate should not be feared because, when used properly, it is beneficial. However, when it is not necessary or beneficial, probate can be avoided.
Situations that may allow property to pass without probate include:
- Assets with beneficiary designations, such as life insurance policies, retirement accounts, bank accounts, and other financial accounts.
- Joint tenancy with right of survivorship permits property to pass without probate proceedings.
- Assets subject to a Community Property Agreement.
- Estates with assets totaling less than $100,000 can be administered through use of an affidavit procedure if the decedent owns no real property solely in his or her name.
There may be other ways to avoid the probate process if it is necessary or beneficial in your specific situation.
Estate Planning That Anticipates Probate
Elder Law Group PLLC works with you to streamline the estate administration process. Let us help you with the planning necessary to make the process as easy as possible on your loved ones by:
- Avoiding probate when it is not necessary or beneficial.
- Simplifying the probate process.
- Reducing or eliminating state liens and taxes.
- Protecting your estate from unnecessary creditor claims.
- Protecting assets and providing for your loved ones.
At Elder Law Group PLLC we do not focus just on basic Estate Planning – we focus all of our efforts on protecting the assets you have worked so hard to earn and ensuring your wishes are carried out. Our attorneys have the skill and knowledge to consider all aspect of your situation, explore available options, and help you create the Asset Protection Estate Plan™ that is best tailored to meet your goals.
Contact us or call (509) 468-0551 (Spokane office), or (509) 579-0206 (Tri-Cities office), for personal, compassionate, and competent guidance on Asset Protection Estate Planning™ and other Elder Law issues.