Washington’s probate system is relatively straightforward and streamlined as compared to other states. Since a Washington probate is not necessarily something to be avoided at all costs, for many clients a will is the best option. It tends to be a less expensive choice than a revocable living trust, and works well for the needs of many clients. Upon death, regardless of whether a probate is required to administer the decedent’s estate and transfer assets, the will must be filed with the court pursuant to Washington law.
The basic rules regarding who can make a will, how to determine a will’s validity, and interpretation of wills can be found in Chapter 11.12 of the Revised Code of Washington. If you choose to work with our firm, we will first ask you to complete an Estate Planning Form in order to find out needed information about your family, your asset level and the types of assets you have, who you would like to serve as your Personal Representative, and what you would like your estate distribution to look like. Is a testamentary trust within your will needed to care for heirs who cannot receive an outright distribution such as children, young adults, or adults who may need special assistance or have special needs? Do you have potential liabilities related to Washington estate tax or federal estate tax and, if so, what strategies should be employed to reduce your potential tax liabilities? And, with all of this talk about people and assets, let’s not forget your pets! It’s important to include provisions to ensure that your pets will be well cared for if you die first. A multitude of issues can be involved in estate planning – issues that, sometimes, non-lawyers fail to even recognize. Our firm has several conversations with our estate planning clients as part of our process, to ensure that our clients fully understand their choices as the documents are developed and, also, that our clients understand the follow up work that is needed once the documents are signed to help ensure that they will take effect as intended.
If you would like more information, here are some additional details about our estate planning process: https://staceyromberg.com/articles/estate-planning-process-washington-state/ . And here is a sampling of some of the blog posts we’ve written about wills: