There are many misconceptions about the probate process. In some instances, avoiding probate may not be the right plan for your estate. Yet, some law firms and businesses market “probate avoidance” devices like revocable living trusts. These are difficult to maintain and even if you have one of these trusts, you will not always be able to avoid probate of your estate.
MISCONCEPTION 1: PROBATE SHOULD BE FEARED AND AVOIDED. It is true that, in some states, probate can be an onerous and expensive process. Fortunately, it's not like that in Washington or Idaho. Probate in these states is much easier than it is in other states, and often the appropriate process for administering your estate. It can be necessary and helpful in situations where a Supplemental Needs Trust needs to be established for a surviving spouse or disabled child who requires long-term care or receives public benefits. The effect of creation of this trust is to provide immediate protection for at least one-half of a couple’s estate.
Complicated estates with considerable property are often best handled via probate. If your estate needs creditor protection or there is dissension among your heirs and beneficiaries, the third-party oversight of the court and probate law will minimize difficulty for your estate.
MISCONCEPTION 2: PROBATE IS ALWAYS A LONG, DRAWN-OUT PROCESS. Many people believe that “probate” is synonymous with lengthy court proceedings. This is usually not true. Depending on the language of your Will or if the court allows, your Personal Representative can serve with nonintervention powers, which means with legal authority to act without court oversight unless necessary.
Sometimes the length of probate depends on whether it is desirable to utilize the benefits of the state’s creditor protection law, which requires your Personal Representative to notify reasonably ascertainable creditors of the impending probate proceedings, but restricts the amount of time they have to present their claims to four months from the notice. A typical probate in Washington or Idaho should last six to nine months.
If you have questions about the probate process, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to find out how we can help.