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What is happening while you wait for probate to end?

After a parent dies, you may soon be ready to move on. Difficult as it may be to say goodbye, you eventually want to return to your normal life. Part of this process is cleaning out your parent's home, collecting your inheritance and obtaining some closure. However, as easy as this sounds, there is a legal process called probate that officially closes the estate of someone who has died.

In the state of Washington, not every estate requires the process of probate. Depending on the size of the estate and how well your loved one prepared it, you may not have to wait long for your inheritance. However, if your loved one's estate is going through probate, you may want to understand the process and your rights as an heir.

A complex method

Probate is a legal process that has a bad reputation because it can take a long time, so the heirs of an estate in probate may not obtain their inheritance for many months. Additionally, probate can be expensive. However, probate may be necessary to ensure the right people obtain what is rightfully theirs. This occurs through the following steps:

  • Filing your loved one's will with the local probate court and submitting a copy of your parent's death certificate
  • Notifying all the beneficiaries listed in the will (or if there is no will, those whom the law identifies as heirs) to appear for a hearing to verify that the will is valid
  • Identifying your loved one's estate executor (or if there is no will, naming someone to represent the estate)
  • Posting bond, which is a step the executor may have to take to protect the estate in case he or she makes a mistake that costs the heirs part of their inheritance
  • Locating, securing and appraising the assets in your loved one's estate
  • Paying any of your loved one's lingering debts, including his or her final tax returns
  • Distributing the remaining assets to the heirs

This final step may not take place until the previous steps are complete. At any time, the process could break down if the court requires clarification or if someone disputes a decision. If your loved one left a will, these disputes may be less likely. If there is no will or complex assets, you may expect probate to go on for some time. Throughout the process, you have the right to personal legal representation to ensure you obtain your fair share of assets and the protection of your rights.

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To speak with an attorney at Gellner Law Group about estate planning, probate, trusts, wills or tax controversy, contact our law office in Kent, Washington, today. You can call 425-336-2908 or send us an email. We provide representation across the entire Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area.

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