After a loved one dies, their estate must pass through probate. The probate process can be complicated and confusing, especially for family members who are serving as the estate’s personal representative. However, help is available. If you need assistance, please reach out to one of our Tacoma elder law attorneys for more information.
Probate Names a Personal Representative
The personal representative administers the estate. This includes submitting the will for probate and ultimately paying off creditors and distributing assets. If your loved one had a will, then he or she should have named a personal representative in it. Find the will and then submit it to the probate court. If your loved one died without a will, then the court will need to appoint someone to serve.
The Personal Representative Collects Estate Assets
Everyone dies with an estate, which consists of the assets a person owned at the time of death. The personal representative must find these assets and keep them safe. Often, this means opening a bank account to store cash and to write checks. If the deceased had a vehicle, then the representative usually takes possession of it.
Estate assets also must be kept safe. For example, if insurance is running out on a home or car, then the representative often renews the insurance so that the asset is protected from loss.
The Deceased’s Creditors are Paid
Your loved one might have owed money to creditors at death. Typically, every deceased has at least some small bills, such as utilities or a cell phone. Other loved ones might owe money on a car, home, or other assets. In Washington, creditors generally only have four months to submit creditor claims for the personal representative to pay. If the claim does not seem valid, then the representative can deny payment.
Probate Distributes Estate Assets
In a will, your loved one should have named beneficiaries who will inherit assets. There should also be alternates named if the original beneficiary has already died. After the personal representative pays all creditors, he or she distributes the remaining assets to the beneficiaries.
If your loved one died without a will, then Washington’s intestacy laws will determine which relatives inherit the property. For example, if someone dies and leaves behind a spouse and children, then the spouse will inherit the couple’s community property and 50% of the separate property. The deceased’s children inherit the other half of the separate property.
Problems with Probate
Many different problems can crop up while administering an estate. For example, at Alliance Law Group we have seen:
- Children challenge the will as invalid
- Creditors bring lawsuits for claims the personal representative has disallowed
- Beneficiaries sue the personal representative for violating fiduciary duties
- An estate lacking sufficient cash to pay taxes or creditors, forcing the personal representative to sell assets that beneficiaries were expecting
Each of these situations is rife with complications, and you will need a Tacoma elder law attorney to help you.
Experienced Help with Probate in Tacoma
After the death of a loved one, family members need time to grieve. Nevertheless, one family member is usually tasked with administering the estate. At Alliance Law Group, we help family members navigate the probate process, and we are here for you. If you have a question, please call us today, 253-581-0660.