probate

Probate

What is probate?

When someone dies, probate is the legal process for establishing the validity of their will or determining who should receive the possessions of someone who died without a will. Washington State has one of the shortest probate processes in the country. It is usually concluded within six months.

Yet, even with a will probate can be complex. This is especially true for administrators and executors for whom this is the first time. If you are in that position, let one of our probate attorneys guide you through the process to assure that you are implementing your friend or loved one´s wishes and preserve the estate.

3 stages of probate

Probate has three stages.  Opening, administration, and closing.

  1. You open the probate by asking the court to prove the will (recognize it) and appoint the executor. The executor then notifies all parties including heirs and beneficiaries and the banks, mortgage companies, insurance companies and other entities that hold or are concerned with the estate assets.
  2. Then comes the work of administration. Tasks include paying debts and managing and, in some cases, liquidating assets.
  3. You close the estate when you distribute the assets to the beneficiaries. The final task is filing a report with the court.

If there is no will, the court will appoint an executor based on a list established by law. The executor will then distribute the assets based on the law for estates without a will.

Most people who are assigned the job of executor have never handled probate before. Even if you are completely new to probate law or to financial matters, the law will hold you accountable for mistakes and loss due to those mistakes, if you are the administrator or executor. Thus it pays, to spend some time consulting a probate attorney during the process.

We can guide you

John Groseclose, personal injury, family law attorney

John Groseclose

Norman Short, tax and business law attorney

Norman Short

Bring all your questions to John Groseclose and Norman Short. They will explain the process in detail, assist you with the forms and be available to answer your questions. Either Norm or John will expertly take on any portion of the process you assign them. Set up an appointment today.

Is joint ownership a good substitute for a will?

The short answer is probably not.joint ownership

 

Joint ownership is sometimes called the poor person’s will or the lazy will, although it is the most common form of estate planning. Its chief advantage is that it avoids probate. Yet, it brings with it a host of problems. Keep in mind that there are different kinds of joint ownership and all have their problems.

Here are the main ones:

1. The joint owners can be responsible for each other’s debt.

Creditors for your co-owners may attach your jointly owned property to satisfy their debts. Bankruptcy, a legal judgment against a co-owner, or a tax lien are most likely to cause problems. For example, suppose you add your daughter as a joint-owner of your home. If she defaults on a personal debt, your home could be sold to satisfy the debt. You will likely receive half the proceeds of the sale of the house, but you are out of a home with only half the funds you need to replace it. In some states tenancy by the entirety will protect each person from the debts of the other.

2. Your survivor is not bound by your wishes in passing on the joint property after your death.

Your survivor can do anything he wants to with the jointly-owned property he inherits. If you want to control how property is distributed to your children or charities, you need a will.

3. You may need approval from joint owners to sell or refinance the jointly-owned property, such as your home.

When you share ownership through a tenancy by the entirety, every joint owner you have must agree to major decisions. You may have been the sole decisionmaker of your business that you built from nothing. Yet, if you have made your children joint owners, major financial decisions will require their approval. Lines of credit increases and other routine matters can require a lot of discussion. These transactions can be further complicated if one of your co-owners becomes incapacitated or untrustworthy.

4. You co-owner may be able to make key decisions without your approval.

On the other hand, if you use a tenancy with right of survivorship, your co-owners can use or sell any part of the jointly owned property.

5. It can increase taxes.

Uh oh. You were hoping to save taxes through joint-ownership. To the contrary, you could incur additional taxes and even paperwork.

The gift tax

You can incur gift taxes and extra paperwork if you purchase a home with your money and put it in joint tenancy with a domestic partner. IRS rules consider that to be a gift whose value exceeds the gift limit.

Capital gains tax

IRS calculates capital gains on the sale of a home based on the increase in value from the date of purchase. If you sell a home which is jointly owned, all owners must pay taxes based on the total increase in value, regardless of when they became owners. On the other hand, capital gains accrue for heirs only based on the difference between the value when they inherited the home and the value at sale.

If joint ownership isn’t the answer, what is?

There are a number of options to ensure that your property reaches the people or causes you want with the least waste of time, effort and costs. Wills, trusts, and family-owned entities will serve you much better. Check with one of our estate planning attorneys today. A 30-minute consultation is free.

Norman Short, partner, 24 years experience in estate planning business and tax law

Robert Garrison, 38 years experience, including estate planning, consumer issues, and family law

Sylvia Seybold is often the choice of younger families. She combines estate planning experience with family law

wills and estate planning

Wills: Five reasons you need a will

 

Do you think that wills are only for the wealthy? Or do you believe that your trust, jointly owned property, or insurance with named beneficiaries takes care of everything? Think again. Wills are necessary for everyone. Here are five reasons why.

1. You decide who gets your prized bottle cap collection…

…and every other item that may have value and meaning for others. You also decide who gets your baseball card collection and the brooch that has been handed down in your family for generations. None of your possessions may have a high financial value. On the other hand, they may hold a huge emotional value. It allows you to send your love from beyond the grave by carefully considering the meaning that each has for you and for your intended recipient.

2. Save disagreements among your loved ones.

The aftermath of a death is a very emotional time. People who are grieving often cast their feelings on to the objects the deceased owned. Making a will is one of the most loving things you can do for those you will leave behind.

3. Ensure that your minor children feel more secure.

You want the new guardians for your children to be prepared to care for them immediately. A failure to make your decision clear and legally known can lead to confusion among the family. It will surely add to your children’s emotional burden. While naming a guardian cannot guarantee that there will be no challenges, it is a powerful tool for ensuring your children’s happiness. One step that will help, beyond naming guardians in the will, is letting your family and close friends know who you have named.

4. Name someone to handle the inherited finances for someone who needs help in that area.

Many people try to alleviate the need for a will by naming beneficiaries for insurance policies, retirement accounts, and other financial instruments. Yet, if any of your named beneficiaries need help with handling the inheritance, a will can make a huge difference. It can mean the difference between a comfortable future and a wasted inheritance.

5.  Protect your estate from theft by naming an executor.

Every year identity thieves steal the identities of more than 2.5 million deceased persons. They open credit card accounts, obtain loans and services. Without the authority of a will, thieves may steal your identity and deplete your estate before your beneficiaries can access your accounts.

Three of our attorneys are happy to help you with your will and estate plan. Feel free to contact them today.

Norman Short

Robert Garrison

Sylvia Seybold

Digital estate planning

What are your electronics, blog, and online photos worth?
digital estate planning

You may have worked with an estate planning attorney to carefully plan your family’s financial future. But did you include your digital assets in that plan. The average adult believes their electronics, socially shared content and blog are worth about $50,000. For many of us the most valuable asset is irreplaceable. Our photos and memories that we share on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  Other intellectual property may have a market value, a blog with a good following, for instance. Have you made plans for what happens to those when you die?

You probably need to redefine the role of your executor because standard wills and trusts do not address digital accounts.  The laborious process that Facebook requires for family members to get access to the account of a deceased loved one adds significant stress to an already overwhelming experience. Because most social accounts restrict access to the account holder and exclude even an executor without explicit written authorization, it is wise to amend your clause on the executor in your will or estate plan to grant permission.

Digital estate planning for financial information

Do you access your bank and investment accounts online? In addition, your insurance and other key documents may only exist in digital form. Your executor needs easy access to this information to settle your estate and close down accounts. We can’t overemphasize the importance of quickly accessing accounts. The chances of identity theft increase upon death.

Updating your digital estate plan

Do you already have an estate plan drawn up by an experienced estate planning attorney? Then, it will just take a quick meeting with an attorney knowledgeable with digital estate planning to eliminate social media problems for your heirs. At GSJones Law Group, we have three experienced estate planning attorneys. They can quickly add digital estate planning to your existing estate plan. And, if you have not gotten around to estate planning, there is no time like the present.

Norman Short

Bob Garrison

Sylvia Seybold

 

 

GSJones Law Group, P.S.

Estate Planning, wills and probate

estate planning law

Estate planning law for all adults

Every responsible adult can benefit from estate planning. We tend to think that estate planning is only for the wealthy and elderly. Yet, if you have people who depend on you, one of the best things you can do for them is to begin planning now.

Wills, trusts, health care directives and powers of attorney protect you and the people you love. Make estate planning a part of your roadmap to your financial goals. Let us guide you as you chart your course to a secure future.

  • Your will: Family changes and moving to another state usually require changes to your will. Changing your will every time your financial situation changes significantly is a smart move. Our attorneys will also review your existing will to make sure it can withstand a challenge.
  • Trusts: Determine which type of trust best meets your needs. Is it a special needs trust, a testamentary trust, a revocable living trust, an irrevocable living trust or a charitable trust?
  • Powers of attorney and health care directives: Who would handle your affairs or make medical decisions for you if you became incapacitated?
  • Probate: Do you need guidance in fulfilling your duties as the executor of an estate following the death of a family member?

Norman Short’s experience in estate planning law can guide you to the best plan for you.

In addition to extensive experience in estate planning law, Norman Short brings advanced legal training (LL.M.) and more than a quarter-century in tax law, IRS representation and business law to his work with estate planning. This means that he can help you with estate planning that involves complex tax situations, as well as business ownership.

Norman Short will:

  • advise you of your rights;
  • help ensure that assets are transferred according to your wishes after death;
  • help prevent or respond to probate litigation;
  • assist out-of-town family members when a loved one dies in Washington, leaving estate matters to be resolved.

He happy to advise you in special cases, such as:

  • Small probate cases, perhaps involving only a car or other limited amounts of property
  • Intestate succession: a case of someone dying without a will
  • Estate matters for individuals dying without children or identifiable next of kin (perhaps your neighbor or friend)

 Contact us to plan for your family’s future today

Learn more…

Key terms

Estate: Literally, everything you own, including that old car you keep saying you’re going to fix up, but also the big stuff like your bank accounts, businesses and home.

Estate planning: The preparation for transferring all that you own to others when you die or become incapacitated. It includes various ways of protecting your assets in the transfer.

Estate Tax: A tax applied to your estate upon transfer to the heirs. The estate tax only applies to the wealthy, multi-millionaires.

Trusts: There are a number of different types of trusts. The most common types are similar to a will in that they direct what happens with at least parts of your estate. The difference is that they can be in effect while you are alive. They are often used to reduce estate taxes and avoid probate

Wills: A Last Will (and testament) contains the instructions about what to do with your estate at your death. A Living Will states your wishes for your medical care if you are unable to make those decisions.

Probate: Check out our page on the probate process.

Is joint ownership a good substitute for a will?

Digital estate planning

Call or message for a consultation with an estate planning attorney today!

Appointments to discuss all estate planning matters, trusts, wills, powers of attorney and advanced directives are available at both our Port Orchard and Bainbridge Island offices.

Based in Port Orchard, WA with a branch on Bainbridge Island, GSJones Law Group, P.S., represents Kitsap County residents, as well as clients from throughout surrounding counties and communities. Among the communities are Gig Harbor, Bremerton, Silverdale, Seabeck, Belfair, Banner, Olalla, Poulsbo,  Bethel, Navy Yard City, Fernwood, Purdy. Clients also come from Bainbridge Island and Vashon Island, as well as surrounding areas in Mason County, and Jefferson County.

GSJones Law Group, P.S.

Who We Are

GSJones Law Group, P.S., the law firm that meets all your legal needs.

8 lawyers                    150 years experience

The GS Jones team

A team approach with a 360° look at your legal concerns

  • Stressful Family Times? Divorce, custody, adoption, separation plus.
    Our family law attorneys will guide you to meet your needs with the least distress possible so you can move on with your life.
  • Think Estate Planning is only for the wealthy and elderly? Our Estate Planning lawyers work with many ages and income levels to help you protect your family through all the surprises that life and death can bring.
    Living Trusts, Wills, Powers of Attorney, Living Wills, Irrevocable Trusts, and Charitable Gifting Strategies. W
    e help you find just the right the instruments for you. In addition, we guide probate administrators.
  • Have a business or want to start one or have issues to resolve as an employee? Our business attorneys and employment lawyer are here to help you every step of the way.
    Beginning with your business formation and taxation we guide you as you set your business on a safer and firmer footing. We draft basic contracts and forms. In addition, we review or draft personnel manuals and policies. Our lawyers make startups easier and keep you on a winning path.
  • Injured? Our experienced Personal Injury attorneys will fight for you
    We stand ready to guide you through the process and fight fiercely for what you need. Call us for a free case evaluation.
  • Need help with tax penalties, traffic or criminal charges? You won’t find more effective representation than our tax attorney (25 years dealing with IRS) or our criminal defense attorney (former prosecutor).

Life is not always simple. Your legal needs may be complex. Our lawyers work together to meet whatever life throws at you.

Our experience and regular practices encompass 15 major areas of law. Due to this diversity of experience, we can view your case from many angles. A divorce or custody matter may involve changing a trust. One of our estate planning attorneys can work with your family law attorney. Or work on a Visa may require experience in transnational adoption to advise our immigration attorney. An injury may also involve the expertise of our employment attorney to ensure that injuries don’t result in problems with employment.

GSJones Law Group Partners

Our Partners, David Jones, Norman Short and John Groseclose,
bring 60 years experience in
personal injury, family law, tax, business and estate planning law

Clients  appreciate the GSJones Law Group team approach

Your legal concerns are of great significance. Critical issues may include

  • property loss
  • large sums of money
  • jail versus freedom
  • strengthening or weakening of family ties
  • debt oppression versus debt relief
  • health or demise of a business
  • approved or denied immigration status
  • timely versus delayed administration of an estate.

Our extensive trial experience is critical for our clients. Yet the vast majority of our clients’ goals are accomplished without a need to go to trial. When it becomes necessary, we are prepared — and we work hard to ensure that our clients are prepared as well. We guide you through some of your most challenging times and help you plan for a better future. We are experienced in your world – the world we find in Kitsap County of families, work and small businesses.

Clients appreciate our commitment to our community

Lawyers and staff at GSJones Law Group are active members of our communities. We work to ensure that folks here have access to the courts regardless of their means. In 2019 the Kitsap Bar Association recognized the 400 hours of volunteer services our lawyers and other staff provided in 2018 with the Humanitarian Award. Many serve on the board and as volunteers with Kitsap Legal Services.  Recently, one partner began working with non-profits that help immigrant children with legal needs. In addition, our criminal law attorney takes court appointments. Two of our partners serve the legal community through serving as Judge Pro Tem, commissioner for settlement conferences, Continuing Legal Education leaders, and guardian ad litem. Some are also active in the community services Rotary Clubs provide.

From church choirs that perform at prisons to organizing popular marathons and working for food availability our lawyers and staff volunteer work to make a difference.

Contact GSJones Law Group, your Kitsap County Law Firm

Call or message us to schedule an initial consultation. Located in Port Orchard and Bainbridge Island, we provide full service to Kitsap County and surrounding communities including Bremerton, Silverdale,  Seabeck, Gig Harbor, and the area Naval facilities.

We specialize in you.