Although much of our Vancouver legal practice at Spencer & Sundstrom PLLC focuses on family law and criminal defense matters throughout Southwest Washington State, we also handle general matters, including estate planning, probate administration, municipal law, and business law. The following are some frequently asked questions we receive regarding these areas of law.

What is probate?

Probate is the legal process courts use to transfer a decedent’s assets to those entitled to receive those assets, whether the deceased person had a will or not. During this process, the court will appoint a representative for the estate and arrange for all of the decedent’s debts and taxes to be paid from the estate’s assets before the remainder of the assets are distributed to the persons, trusts, or charities that are entitled to receive the assets of the estate. Probate typically takes a minimum of five months to complete and often takes longer.

What are the differences between different types of wills?

In a typical will, a person (testator) specifies how his or her property should be divided, who should receive what portions or specific items, and who will take care of any surviving minor children. A typical will may include a testamentary trust, which names a trustee to manage the property for any minor children’s benefit and distribute the property according to the testator’s instructions. When the child reaches a specified age, the trust funds are usually distributed and the trust ends.

A will between a husband and wife is often executed in conjunction with a Community Property Agreement, which states that all separate assets will be made part of the community estate. A reciprocal will is one in which two people join together and leave the individually owned property and estate to the other.

A living will, medical directive, or health care directive provides advance directives on an individual’s health care preferences in case of terminal illness or permanent unconsciousness. Living wills offer an opportunity to formalize your wishes as it relates to life-sustaining medical treatments.

Does every estate have to go through probate?

The simple answer is no. Estates that can avoid probate include:

  • Property that is held in joint tenancy simply transfers to the surviving joint tenant.
  • Estates with total assets less than $60,000 and no real estate avoid probate and instead go through a simpler process called Small Estate Administration.
  • Property held in living trusts, if drafted properly and funded correctly.
  • If spouses executed a valid Community Property Agreement, the deceased spouse’s estate immediately transfers to the surviving spouse pursuant to the agreement.
What should I consider when deciding which business entity is best for my business?

Washington State recognizes a wide variety of business entities, including corporations, limited liability companies (LLC), limited partnerships (LP), limited liability partnerships (LLP), and professional service corporations (also called PLLC). The most popular business entities are corporations and LLCs. In both, the business’s owners are shielded from personal liability; however, LLPs tend to have less complicated structures. Different business entities also have varying tax implications; an experienced attorney can discuss your available options and advise you as to which entity is best for your particular business goals.

Seek Experienced Legal Representation

If you need assistance with a probate, estate planning, municipal, or business matter, is important to hire experienced attorneys who understand the local and state rules and laws that govern these matters.

To schedule a consultation regarding your case, call the Vancouver general practice attorneys of Spencer & Sundstrom at 877-574-6109 or fill our web contact form today.

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