When you lose a loved one and their estate goes to probate, there will be a complex series of steps to take for verifying, valuing, and distributing the assets of the estate.
It can be a very long and overwhelming process with a lot of legal fuss and trouble with which to contend. Survivors can enlist in the services of a probate attorney to help navigate the process and ensure matters are handled in the appropriate manner.
Steps Involved in the Probate Process
The estate administrator, also referred to as an executor, is responsible for handling probate. In most cases, this person is named in the deceased’s will or is informally elected by the close relatives of the deceased. If there isn’t a will, or if nobody steps up, the probate court will elect someone to handle the estate distribution, which oftentimes will be the primary beneficiary.
There are numerous steps and stages of the probate process, including:
- proving the validly of a will (if there is one);
- filing all necessary papers with the clerk;
- opening an estate;
- appraising all the property;
- inventorying the assets and debts;
- liquidating assets, if necessary;
- preparing tax returns;
- paying outstanding debts; and
- distributing the remaining assets to beneficiaries.
When Probate Disputes Arise
Probate is such a complex and multi-tiered process that mistakes and discrepancies may arise when beneficiaries try to mitigate the tasks themselves. For instance:
- creditors may not be paid as they should;
- mistakes in taxes can be made; and
- the transfer of assets paperwork may be handled incorrectly.
Furthermore, some executors might not have the best interests of all the beneficiaries in mind. Rather, their own financial benefit might be in the forefront of their mind and they may not distribute the assets as the will or law requires. If you are a beneficiary and you suspect mishandling or fraud, or think your rights may be being thwarted, consult a probate attorney as soon as possible.
Finding a Probate Attorney
If you’ve recently lost a loved one and need counsel for the probate process, you can start by asking loved ones for referrals. You can also visit the Washington Bar Association for probate attorneys in your area, as well as the Avvo website for the attorney’s ratings.
When researching attorneys, make sure the attorney you decide to go with is one who:
- has a background in probate;
- can provide testimonials and accreditations;
- has fair rates and is clear about billing practices;
- will help prepare the taxes; and
- can explain the basic steps and probate process to you in a way you understand.
Probate Attorneys in Everett, Washington
If you are in need of legal counsel for probate in Everett, Washington, or if you are in the process of planning your estate and are looking for ways to avoid probate, call our estate planning lawyers at Deno Millikan. We can help you handle every aspect of probate and estate planning, from preparation to litigation. Contact our office at (425) 259-2222 to schedule a consultation with a probate attorney today.
Probate Attorneys at Deno Millikan: