Spokane Probate Attorney Makes Difference

You May Have to Fight For Your Inheritance
by Spokane Probate Attorney, Steven Schneider

After a loved one dies, it can be very painful when the heirs can’t agree on how the estate should be distributed. Often, if there is a will, it may simply divide “the estate” by the number of heirs. Depending on how joint bank accounts between the decedent and one or two heirs are held, those funds may not even become part of the estate. Many people don’t know this. Things like family heirlooms, furniture, silver, etc. are most often not addressed at all, except lumped together as ‘residue’ of the estate. As a Spokane probate attorney, I council my clients about these issues others may miss.

Family Fighting Over Inheritance

Does this look like your family during probate? Maybe so, maybe not, but whatever your family’s portrait looks like, Spokane probate attorney, Steven Schneider, can help you!

Dividing an estate can an emotional and hurtful time, not only because families are actively grieving, but also because:

  • Some of the items being distributed may hold intense sentimental value to more than one family member.
  • Some family members may feel they are owed a greater portion of the estate because they were the primary caregiver while others feel that caregiving is an act of love, not a reason to receive more in the estate.
  • The person named executor or personal representative in the will can make all the decisions about how the “estate” is handled prior to the distribution stated in the will, even though others disagree on their method.
  • Some heirs feel they are not given their fair share because they lived far away, didn’t have as much contact with the decedent or they feel another of the heirs was able to disparage them and have undue influence over the terms of the will.
  • One sibling or caretaker has controlled access and communication with parents, often for years, and the other heirs feel excluded.
  • Sometimes, heirs resent the family member named as executor, especially if the executor charges the estate for their time spent on administration, even though it is legal.

If any of this publication is alarming to you, please contact me so that I can share with you my expertise:

  • At the time you or your loved one are writing your wills
  • When, as an executor, you need to open a probate
  • If you are not an executor, but you feel as if there is something not going right in the probate, or feel that the executor is not following the law.

Many times I can prevent future problems or I can help you work through probate without litigation and help to create an understanding and insight between heirs. As a Spokane probate attorney, I feel it is best if families can come through this process in better shape than when they started.

How Estate Planning and Probates Work

  • Without a will, the law of the State in which the person lived determines who receives their property by laws of ‘intestate succession.’ Generally, State laws follow a common sense pattern. In Washington for example, first, one-half goes to the surviving spouse and one-half to children; if there is no spouse, then to the children equally; grandchildren take the parents portion if the parent is deceased.
  • If there is a Will, however, it must be produced and filed in the court and a Personal Representative appointed. It’s usually a spouse or child named in the Will. These are meant as protections for the heirs, but, in most cases, the court does not oversee the actions of the Personal Representative.
  • “Non-intervention” probates are overwhelmingly the most common type of probate, created to avoid court delays and overcrowding. If the estate is solvent, the Personal Representative has complete control of the Estate without court supervision.  The court will only intervene if someone brings a dispute to the court by filing a Petition.

Watch for my next blog, You Do Have Rights as an Heir.

 

ESTATE PLANNING, WILLS AND PROBATE

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Estate Planing, Wills and Probates: Food for Thought

Estate Planing, Wills and Probates: Food for Thought

CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?

By Spokane Attorney, Steven Schneider

ESTATE PLANNING, WILLS AND PROBATE: PART ONE

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.

The OH HELL YES, I WANT A WILL option:

  • 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 www.stevenschneiderlaw.com.