Probate is the process by which the court validates a will and appoints a Personal Representative (or executor) to distribute the assets of a deceased person. The probate process can be confusing if you are not familiar with how the court handles estates. Here are some basic things that can help make the probate process easier for you to work through.

Your Will and Assets

One of the most important things you can do to make the probate process easier is make a Will that outlines where you want everything to go after you pass away. If you do not have a Will, the law determines to whom your assets are distributed. To ensure that your property is left to the right people, a Will is essential.

If you need help to make a Will, you can sit down with your attorney and discuss your assets and how you want to distribute them on death. Your attorney can then put the Will together and make sure it is properly executed to be an enforceable legal document.

An Executor

You should name an executor (in Washington, called a Personal Representative) for your estate in your Will, so that someone can handle your affairs after you die. If your estate goes into probate, the executor makes sure your Will is carried out. Your attorney is often involved in this process and will help oversee the distribution of the assets. An executor should be someone who you trust and who is capable of handling your final affairs.

Assets Affected by Probate

Not everything a deceased person owns must go through probate. Some assets are distributed to named beneficiaries or joint owners automatically on death and without need for a probate.

For the most part, probate assets are items as a home, cars, and bank accounts that do not have a beneficiary or joint owner. These assets may be listed in a Will or part of the “residue” of an estate that is distributed through the probate process to persons named in the Will.

Non-probate assets are items that are jointly owned, or have beneficiary or payable or transfer on death designees. A joint bank account with survivorship is not subject to probate. Property that has a person automatically designated to receive it on someone’s death is also not subject to probate.

Avoiding Probate

Sometimes people work hard to avoid the probate process so everything they own is distributed automatically on their death. Washington even allows a “Revocable Transfer on Death Deed” which will transfer real estate automatically on death to a designated beneficiary. If everything you own is set up to transfer automatically on your death, your estate should not need to be probated.

Probate can be a confusing, but Campbell Barnett PLLC can help make the process clear and simple. Our attorneys have experience with probate law and are happy to help you navigate the process and settle your loved one’s estate. Give us a call to set up a consultation, and we can talk about your situation.