Estate Planing, Wills and Probates: Food for Thought

Estate Planing, Wills and Probates: Food for Thought


By Spokane Attorney, Steven Schneider


Most probates are easy to get through, take a few short months and don’t cost very much. Even though some attorneys describe them as costly and messy, in my experience the opposite is true. With a good will the process can be well-defined and with a good Spokane lawyer the estate can significantly save its resources.

During my 25 years of experience as a lawyer in the Spokane area, I have processed probates that have good, clear wills in place, and conversely, I’ve seen the downside of having no will or a sloppy will. This has helped me to know exactly where the pitfalls are planted. After listening to a client’s needs and desires, and advising them as needed, I will write a will that uniquely addresses their wishes and individual circumstances. Every family has its own special nuances and estate planning, wills and probate must as well.

The NO WILL option:

  • Any child or other relative can petition to be appointed as executor, now known as Personal Representative.
  • During probate, the surviving spouse will receive all the community property estate and one half of the separate property estate. Children or parents will receive the other half.
  • If you have no spouse, your estate will go to your children equally and without restriction if they are over eighteen.  Yes, even your son who sleeps on his friends couch and dreams only of being a rock star will be handed a lump sum with no restrictions.
  • If one child dies before you, that share will go to that child’s children or your parents. Again, if a grandchild is eighteen, that grandchild’s share will go directly to the grandchild. Under the age of eighteen, the share will go to that grandchild’s parents, yes even the ex-spouse who ran off with a biker and is addicted to drugs.


  • You designate who will be in charge of your estate. If you want a specific child to take that position, or even an attorney or family friend, you must have a will that appoints your choice of Personal Representative.
  • If you want to choose the heirs of your estate, you must have a will.
  • The will may contain trusts for disabled or under-age children and grandchildren. The will can distribute property equally, unequally or cut a person out completely.
  • The will can determine when and how the assets are liquidated and distributed, which, in certain circumstances, can be very important.
  • You can give some or all your money to charity.
  • If you have real property in another state, it’s very important to have that brought into your estate plan.
  • You can even have life insurance death benefits paid to your estate to fund your plan.

Many people don’t make wills because they don’t plan on dying soon or they don’t want to think of their own mortality. This has the potential to create discontent and fights within the family when you are gone.  No one wants that result. Estate planning, wills and probate are very important, even if your assets aren’t much, in this case, sometimes it is the thought that counts.

The same applies to other estate planning documents.

  • A Durable Power of Attorney is needed if you will need help with finances and medical decisions during your life, but it must be signed before you need it, before you are determined to be incompetent by your doctor. This could happen without warning, due to a stroke or other sudden ailments.
  • Also, an Advance Directive will tell your wishes about being kept alive artificially or with extraordinary methods. It can be generic or quite explicit or designate a length of time. There are many options.

Consult an experienced estate attorney, when you are contemplating estate planning, wills and probate or are named the Personal Representative in a will.

Future posts will explain separate property, how bank accounts are defined, difficult personalities and more. Visit