Probate vs Living Trust – by Spokane Probate Attorney, Steven Schneider

Last Will & Testament

Probate May Be Less Costly and Easier Than Living Trust

It is common to hear the advice “Avoid Probate” when considering estate planning. In my experience, this usually means that an advertising pitch is being made to try to convince you to buy a Living Trust package instead of a Will. In the State of Washington however, the probate process is generally no more expensive than dealing with the same property through a Living Trust.

An average couple with a Will and Community Property Agreement can simply record the Community Property Agreement on the first death for normally under $100. Upon the death of the surviving spouse or domestic partner, it costs $240.00 to submit the Will to probate and most likely around $1,000.00 for the attorney time involved. There is usually not even a trip to the courthouse for the Executor.

With or without a will, Washington law grants “non-intervention powers” to most Personal Representatives (generic term for Executor) meaning that the court takes no part in the process unless there is a dispute. The Personal Representative also has authority over non-probate assets, including separate property, joint tenancy with survivorship, and property in trusts. Being a Spokane probate attorney is a great opportunity to help my client’s sift through the difficult choices they face when creating a will or trust.

The probate process also cuts off the claims of creditors after four months and limits the liability of the Personal Representative once the probate is closed. A simple Will, Durable Power of Attorney, Community Property Agreement and Advance Directive shouldn’t cost more than $500.00 to $750.00 to prepare for an average person or couple. If any Federal or State tax would be due upon death, or if a complex trust is required, there would be additional costs and time incurred.

Living Trusts cost as much or more than the Will package to prepare. With a Living Trust you also need a Durable Power of Attorney, a Community  Property Agreement and an Advance Directive. There is also a cost in transferring your property by Deed or other document into the trust. On death the same property must be transferred out of the trust. If significant property has been left out of the trust by mistake, you may still have to file a probate to clear title or transfer certain assets.

You should have estate planning that is appropriate for your assets, income, heirs and stage of life. While a Living Trust may be appropriate, a simple probate may also be the most economical choice.

Call me at (509) 838-4458 or by email at if you have any questions regarding making a will.

A Last Will is used to distribute property to beneficiaries, specify last wishes, and name guardians for minor children. It is an important part of any estate plan. Without one, your estate will pass according to state statutes which might not provide for distribution of your assets as you intend.

A Living Trust is used to transfer property to beneficiaries on death without a court filing.  If any property has been left out of the trust or if there is some dispute over distribution, a court proceeding may still be required.

A Living Will or Advance Directive lets you outline important healthcare decisions in advance, such as whether or not to remain on artificial life support and specify organ donation.

A Durable Power of Attorney gives someone else the power to manage your assets for your benefit , but only as long as you are alive.

A Community Property Agreement is used to transfer property to a surviving spouse without a court proceeding.  The agreement may also state that all property acquired from any source becomes community property.

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