Probate Attorney Tacoma WA
What is ‘Probate’?
Probate is the legal process in which a decedent's debts are paid and assets are distributed. This process is overseen by the courts and a great deal of responsibility is placed on the “Personal Representative” of the deceased. This Personal Representative is chosen by the court if one is not named in a Will or estate plan, or if the Personal Representative named is unable or unwilling to act in that capacity. The Personal Representative is tasked with identifying all of the deceased individual’s assets, and eventually distributing the assets to those who will inherit them. Responsibilities also include identifying debts and taxes left to be paid and notifying creditors. The Personal Representative will receive “Letters Testamentary” from the court which are used to prove that the Personal Representative is acting with the authority necessary to perform their duties. It is important that the Personal Representative is careful to document everything as best they can. This includes any expenses paid and income that comes in after the death has occurred.
In many cases, formal proceedings are not necessary and the process may take as little as six months. In other cases, especially if there are disputes, the process can take much longer. Many assets, including some that have joint ownership (with a spouse for instance) will not need to go through probate. However, as with most processes in legal areas, it can be very helpful to have a trusted attorney counsel you on which assets require special considerations and which ones do not.
In addition to dealing with the loss of your loved one, the probate process can become overwhelming. There are a variety of laws involved and specific processes and rules that must be followed depending on the type of assets and debts left behind. Hiring a qualified lawyer to help you navigate the probate process can help you reduce the amount of stress you will endure during this already troubling time. There are a lot of, “What if..” and “It depends” scenarios when it comes to probate, and it can seem that the tasks continue to pile up when you already have your hands full with other matters.
With some forethought and planning, this can be a simple process. And, depending on the specifics of your situation, it can be relatively straightforward. Hopefully, that will be the case for you. We can be a resource just to reassure you that the proper steps are being taken, or we can help give direction in more complicated matters.