Washington Probate Lawyers Provide Knowledgeable Counsel
Port Orchard firm advises on the management and distribution of estate assets
Serving as the executor or administrator of someone’s estate is a serious responsibility. Mistakes can lead to squandered assets and, possibly, legal liability. At GSJones Law Group, P.S. in Port Orchard, we assist clients in Kitsap County and other parts of Washington throughout the probate process. No matter how simple or complex your estate administration issues might be, our attorneys provide personalized guidance as we work to minimize expenses and maximize the value that is allocated to beneficiaries.
Steps in the probate process
Settling a decedent’s estate requires the correct completion of numerous tasks, including:
- Filing the will — After someone dies, the executor named in the will files the document with the court and requests appointment as personal representative of the estate. In the event that no valid will exists, someone close to the decedent can be named to handle estate administration duties.
- Sending notices to interested parties — Upon being appointed, the personal representative has 20 days to notify potential beneficiaries that probate proceedings have commenced and that they have been designated to represent the estate.
- Bringing assets into the estate — The personal representative uses their authority to shift ownership of the decedent’s assets to the estate.
- Paying estate debts, taxes and expenses — During the probate process, it is necessary to keep a precise inventory of all transactions, including the payment of debts and taxes. Court costs and attorney’s fees are also deducted from estate assets.
- Distributing property — Once all assets have been brought into the estate and the decedent’s debts and other obligations have been satisfied, property is distributed to the beneficiaries. The probate proceeding can be closed.
Washington allows the administration of small estates (valued at $100,000 or less) through an affidavit, and also gives personal representatives the chance to petition the court for nonintervention powers that allow the representative to handle most estate tasks without obtaining court approval. We work with you to facilitate the distribution of the decedent’s property in accordance with their wishes. If there was no will, we ensure that the estate is administered according to Washington State’s intestacy laws.
Assets that are not transferred through probate
Not every asset owned by someone who dies is transferred through probate. For many, a primary estate planning goal is to help their loved ones avoid the formal probate process through the use of trusts, life insurance policies, joint ownership and accounts payable upon death to designated beneficiaries. Our firm clearly explains to estate representatives how specific items are treated. When we consult with clients to develop an estate plan, we present alternatives to probate.
State and federal estate taxes
As of 2023, the estate tax threshold in Washington is $2.193 million, which means that any estate whose value exceeds that amount will be subject to taxation. This is a far lower level than the 2023 federal exemption, which is $12.92 million. The Washington tax rate starts at 10 percent and rises gradually with the value of the estate up to a maximum of 20 percent for estates that exceed $9 million. This means that even families that are not incredibly wealthy could face a significant estate tax burden if they fail to prepare. We offer insight on estate planning methods that reduce tax liability, and during probate, we see that estate tax returns are completed accurately and filed properly.
Negotiation, mediation and litigation of probate disputes
Disagreements over the distribution of estate assets can trigger emotional conflicts among family members and other potential beneficiaries. Claims from purported creditors can also make probate more difficult. You can rely on our firm for honest counsel regarding will contests and other challenges you might face as the personal representative for an estate. We aim to resolve disputes efficiently through negotiation or mediation whenever possible and always keep clients informed about the anticipated cost of various legal options. Should litigation be the best way to fulfill the testator’s wishes, our accomplished attorneys are skillful trial advocates.
Contact a Kitsap County probate lawyer to schedule a consultation
GSJones Law Group, P.S. in Port Orchard guides clients through the Washington probate process and other estate administration duties. Please call 360-876-9221 or contact us online to discuss your situation with a qualified attorney.