An important part of the estate planning process is to protect your assets and care for your loved ones. Many people have heard that an important step in accomplishing these goals is to avoid probate at all costs. However, the majority of us are simply unaware of why this is true. Let’s take a moment to shed some light on the topic.
What is Probate?
Washington state and California have specific laws that govern how a deceased person’s assets are distributed. When someone passes away, their estate may go through a legal process called probate, which is overseen by a court to ensure that the deceased person’s debts are paid, and their assets are distributed according to their wishes.
The probate process is typically overseen by a judge. The judge provides the final ruling on the division and distribution of a decedent’s assets. Probate usually takes place no matter if you have or don’t have a will.
What are the Disadvantages of Probate?
There are several disadvantages of probate. These are that the probate process can sometimes:
- Grow extremely time consuming,
- Cost lots of money, and
- Tie up assets for months or even years.
Probate is also a public process, meaning that a decedent’s affairs and those of his or her family are made common knowledge. In addition, probate can also be emotionally difficult for surviving family members who may have to deal with legal proceedings and disagreements among beneficiaries.
Can You Avoid Probate?
Yes, there are steps that you can take to help avoid probate. To avoid probate, you can generally try to ensure that your assets pass directly to your chosen beneficiaries outside of the court. This can usually be done by:
- Setting up a revocable living trust,
- Naming beneficiaries for certain assets like retirement accounts or life insurance policies, and
- Utilizing joint tenancy or community property with the right of survivorship.
By avoiding probate, individuals can ensure that their assets are distributed quickly and efficiently to their loved ones while minimizing the cost and complexity of the legal process.
Contact The McWilliams Law Group for Help
The established California and Washington estate planning attorneys at the McWilliams Law Group help you prepare for the future today.
Our firm provides legal assistance with the following:
- Will drafting, execution and review
- Living Trusts
- Advance healthcare directives (living Wills)
- Powers of attorney
- Estate and gift tax issues
- Guardianships and conservatorships
- Choosing the appropriate executor and/or trustee
The skilled attorneys at our firm can help thoroughly analyze your estate and strategize the best means of transferring your assets, minimizing taxes, establishing guardianship, and supporting philanthropic causes. Contact us now and let us help protect your personal security, family, and legacy.