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Understanding probate is a key part of effective estate planning

| Aug 17, 2020 | Firm News |

There are many aspects of estate planning that should be understood. Washington State residents who are making the wise step and preparing for the future with a comprehensive estate plan should take many the various aspects of the process into account. That includes knowing the details about probate. Probate is the process in which the person who created the estate plan – the testator – will have his or her wishes carried out after death. This might sound like a simple procedure, but there are frequently complicated issues that arise. From the beginning, it may be useful to have legal advice to help guide the way.

The fundamentals of probate

People should be cognizant of the probate process and what it entails. With probate, the court will oversee the decedent’s property and ensure that it passes to the beneficiaries as it is stipulated in the estate plan. With an estate plan, the testator will name an executor who will administer the asses in the estate. This should be a person who can fulfill all the duties. The executor will receive notifications from the financial institutions in which the person had his or her assets. This will grant them the ability to take steps to distribute those assets. When the probate process is underway, others will be present including the beneficiaries, the creditors who will receive payment for debts, and the judge.

After the will has been validated, the process gets underway. The amount of time it takes to complete probate may vary. It can even take years. Often, people who are crafting an estate plan may want to avoid probate because of the amount of time it takes and the individual needs. Ways to avoid probate include a revocable trust. This is beneficial as it can be changed while the testator is alive and can be altered to address changed circumstances. Assets can also be passed to beneficiaries apart from the will. Examples of how this can be done is with an insurance policy or an IRA. Some might even want to lower the value of their estate by giving gifts to beneficiaries in lieu of waiting until after death for the assets to be distributed. This could have tax implications, so it is important to be cognizant of the legal process and to craft viable strategies to avoid financial challenges.

Creating a comprehensive estate plan may require legal help

People who have families and are creating a diverse financial portfolio with real estate, bank accounts, retirement accounts and investments should think about how they will protect their loved ones. An estate plan can accomplish this. Probate is a key part of the estate planning process and being aware of how it impacts the executor and the beneficiaries is imperative. Whether it is a person who is older and thinking about a legacy or someone who is younger and wants to shield a growing family, having legal advice for an estate plan is a good idea. Contacting a qualified legal professional who understands all the potential problems with estate planning can be helpful.