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What exactly is probate?

Probate is probably something you have never spent much time thinking about. Understanding the process has never been a priority … until, one day, it is.

When you have barely had the chance to begin to grieve the loss of your loved one, you’re simultaneously tasked with handling probate. Not only are you unsure of where to start, you aren’t confident you even know what “probate” actually means.

Understanding the probate process

Probate is a legal process that occurs after a person has died. His or her debts are paid and assets are distributed. If your loved one had a will and you were named the executor, you will be the “personal representative” for probate. If he or she didn’t have a will, the court will appoint an administrator.

The responsibility of this role is to distribute the deceased’s assets according to the will. In the absence of a will, the assets should be distributed according to Washington’s laws. The personal representative is also responsible for paying debts that are owed. You are allowed to collect a fee for your part in finalizing the estate.

Is probate always required?

If your loved one had a small, simple estate, it may instead be settled by affidavit. While this may seem preferable, it isn’t always. Probate may be required or beneficial in numerous scenarios, including:

  • When assets were owned in his or her name alone
  • Real property is owned
  • Debts and/or taxes are owed
  • Conflict is possible or likely

If your loved one named a beneficiary to assets, or if assets were held in a revocable trust, those assets may not have to go through the probate process.

You don’t have to do it alone

Probate can be a confusing and complicated process. Coupled with dealing with the loss of your loved one, it can feel overwhelming to tackle this alone. Experienced probate attorneys can guide you through the process, by ensuring the numerous tasks associated with being the personal representative are completed in a timely, efficient manner.

Working with an attorney can allow you to take the time you need and deserve to process your loss and grieve.

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