Probate and Estate Administration

Our Probate Attorney helps Executors and Administrators close out and settle estates as efficiently and quickly as possible. Because we focus only on Estate matters, clients seek out our services throughout Washington State.

What Your Probate Lawyer Will Do For You:

We have an experienced Estate Administration Lawyer ready to help you with any task, but Personal Representatives and Executors will most often have us help with the following:

  • Filing the Petition for Probate with the Superior Court.
  • Collecting Assets.
  • Assist with the Filing of Tax Returns.
  • Selling real estate and businesses.
  • Settling Creditor Claims.
  • Working with problem heirs.
  • Obtaining the Executor’s very important Release of Liability documentation.

What is Probate?

Probate refers to the process where the state recognizes the executor or administrator as the estate’s official representative. When someone dies, ownership of all assets in that person’s name now pass to someone else. The Probate process provides the rules and oversight of that process. Getting the Washington state’s recognition of the Will is the initial step. If there is no Will, the estate is considered “intestate” and the process begins with the selection of the person who will serve as the estate’s Administrator. If the petitions for probate are accepted, the executor or administrator receives paperwork recognizing their authority. Probate has begun.

Where do I Probate the Will?

In Clark County you Probate a Will at the Superior Court.

What if I am an Executor, but I Don’t Live Close by?

Our experienced Probate Lawyer can arrange your being sworn in as executor near your home. In most cases, we can arrange for you never to need to come to the county at all. Because we focus our practice on Probate matters, we can help make the Probate process as convenient as possible.

How Long Does the Probate Process Take?

There is no set time limit for an estate’s probate. As explained below, I often tell executors to tell the heirs that the estate will be open for at least a year, but we can often close the estate earlier (making the executor look good). The actual time the estate will be open will depend upon the estate’s assets and the taxes that need be paid. The Probate system is efficient, but there are certain steps over which you have no control. For example, certain tax returns need be filed, and the forms might not even be available until the year following the death. The estate might contain hard to sell assets, such as an art collection or real estate, so the estate will have to stay open until the assets are sold. For a more detailed estimate, feel free to contact us with the details of your estate.

Typical Questions Asked About Probate:

What if someone owes me money at my death?

Your executor has the power to collect your assets. Your executor will have all the same powers to enforce your rights, including obtaining a court order.

What if the decedent left no Will?

If a Washington resident dies without a will, the estate then passes through the intestacy laws. The process if you die without a Will differs from if you have a Will. With an intestate estate, our Probate Lawyer file a different petition to have an Administrator named, rather than an executor. The rules that cover who can serve as Administrator are rather complex. If you have a relative who died without a Will, feel free to contact us. We will explain the process.

What are an Executor’s (or called Personal Representative’s) duties and responsibilities?

Once a probate petition is accepted, the executor or administrator’s job is to gather all the assets, pay creditors, satisfy all income/inheritance/estate taxes, and then distribute the remaining assets as the Will directs. Each estate is different, and the amount of work and responsibility may vary.

Our Probate Attorney regularly represents executors, administrators, and personal representatives and guides them through the probate process. We work with you to analyze your particular estate and advise you of what options exist to bring the estate to a close.

What is an Executor’s Accounting?

An executor’s accounting is the report of the executor’s financial actions from the date the executor began serving until the end. The accounting shows assets collected, what happened to those assets, any gain or losses on those assets and, in the Schedule of Distributions, the executor distribution plan. These accountings can either be informal or formal. Formal Accountings are filed with the court.

Why Should the Executor prepare an Accounting?

The executor should always obtain a release of liability from the heirs. The heirs, though, will often not wish to release the executor unless the executor can “account” for all the assets of the estate and explain all the expense incurred. To satisfy the heirs, the executor will need to provide an “accounting” of the assets and expenses. If the accounting satisfies the heirs, they will sign releases freeing the executor from liability.

Can the Beneficiaries force the Executor to prepare an accounting?

Yes, the heirs can force the executor to account by filing a Petition for Accounting.

What if the Executor cannot explain where assets went, or why expenses were incurred?

If the numbers do not add up, the executor might found personally responsible for any shortfall. The court can “surcharge” the executor for the difference.

I am an Executor, how can a Probate Attorney help me with an Accounting?

When filing an accounting, the Court requires the account to follow a specific format. Accounting submission is through a specific petition. Our experienced Probate Attorney is familiar with Clark County’s specific petition. Providing the Court a Petition in the correct format prevents the judge finding it incomplete and ordering the Petition refilled.

I am a Beneficiary, how can a Probate Attorney help me with an Accounting?

At times an executor may refuse to provide a beneficiary with an acceptable accounting. The Court has created a system that allows a beneficiary to force the executor to provide an accounting. Once the accounting is obtained, our background in estate planning allows us to help you interpret the accounting and search out discrepancies for your objections.

Are Wills public record?

Yes, once a Will is filed it is public record. For this reason, some clients have us draft Revocable Living Trusts. These trusts replace the Will and are not public record.

What is an Estate Beneficiary?

An Estate Beneficiary is a person or entity entitled to receive benefits from the estate.

Experienced, With Reasonable Prices, We Make Probate and Estate Administration Easier.

If you have any questions about Probate and Estate Administration, please contact us to schedule a free consultation. At Vancouver Wills and Trusts we focus on estate law. With years of experience we will explain complex estate planning techniques clearly and concisely. We make it easy for you to understand estate planning so you can make the best decisions for yourself and your family.