Wills & Probate
Wills and trusts are legal documents that direct how one person wants their estate to be distributed upon their death. A power of Attorney is a legal document that grants to another person the legal authority to act on behalf of another. A guardianship is a legal procedure to grant legal authority over an incapacitated person. Gregory L. Davies has been assisting parties in the preparation of Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney and Guardianships since 1980. If you are considering having your Will, Trust or Power of Attorney prepared or a Guardianship established please contact our office and set up an appointment to discuss your matter with Mr. Davies. Our phone number is 425-259-2755. Or email us
Wills, Trusts, Physician's Directive (Living Will), Power of Attorney, Guardianship
Wills are the documents or instruments that set out the written instructions for the orderly distribution of a persons property or estate upon their passing. Trusts are another legal means to achieve the same result. The use of a trust might be dictated by the size of a persons estate to avoid or minimize state inheritance or federal estate taxes. A Living Will or Physician's Directive is a legal documents that sets out your wishes regarding the use of extra ordinary medical procedures to maintain life.
A Power of Attorney is a legal document in which one party give another party the legal authority to act on their behalf when that grantor become incapacitated and can no longer make decisions for themselves. A Guardianship is a legal action in which a party asks the court to appoint a guardian to take care of and/or make decisions for a party that cannot take care of themselves or make decisions for themselves. A power of Attorney and a guardianship are similar except a power of Attorney is given by a person while they are competent and a guardianship may be provided for after a person is incompetent and may not be able to care for themselves. Our fees vary depending on which need you may have. Please give our office a call to set up an appointment to discuss these issues and to get a quote on our fees.
OVERVIEW OF PROBATE PROCESS
Thank you for your interest in our office and our legal services. It is our goal to provide you with professional and efficient legal services. In order to make you more fully aware of the future course of your probate proceeding it is important that you have full and complete information regarding the process through which your case will continue until its final conclusion.
Disclaimer: The following overview of the probate process is intended for information only and is not intended as a substitute for meeting personally with Gregory L. Davies and getting legal advice regarding your specific matter.
Please visit our website at www.gregorydavieslaw.com for more information about our office and the legal services we provide. When visiting our website please like us on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook icon on our website home page, lower right hand corner.
A probate proceeding can be complex and confusing. Whether you decide to process your probate yourself or hire our office to work with you, there is no substitute for proper legal advice to ensure your probate is properly prepared, filed, negotiated, and finalized.
What is a probate?
A probate is a legal proceeding regarding the orderly transfer of real and personal property of a person who has died to the decedent’s beneficiaries and heirs. The transfer of assets is either in accordance with a decedent’s validly executed Will or, if there is no validly executed Will, then in accordance with the intestate succession statutes of Washington State.
What is real property?
Buildings affixed to land and land.
What is personal property?
Everything that is not real property.
What are Non-Probate Assets?
"Non-probate asset" means those rights and interests of a person having ownership of an asset that passes on the person's death under a written instrument or arrangement other than the person's Will. "Non-probate asset" includes, but is not limited to, a right or interest passing under a joint tenancy with right of survivorship, a joint bank account with right of survivorship, a transfer on death deed, payable on death or trust bank account, transfer on death security or security account, deed or conveyance if possession has been postponed until the death of the person, a trust of which the person is grantor and that becomes effective or irrevocable only upon the person's death, a community property agreement, an individual retirement account or bond, or a note or other contract the payment or performance of which is affected by the death of the person.
"Non-probate asset" does not include: A payable-on-death provision of a life insurance policy, annuity, or other similar contract, or an employee benefit plan; a right or interest passing by descent and distribution where there is no Will; a right or interest if, before death, the person has irrevocably transferred the right or interest, the person has waived the power to transfer it or, in the case of a contractual arrangement, the person has waived the unilateral right to rescind or modify the arrangement; or a right or interest held by the person solely in a fiduciary capacity.
What is a Personal Representative?
A personal representative is the person approved by the court to administer the decedent’s estate and ensure the estate assets are distributed or transferred to the decedent’s beneficiaries and heirs.
Non-Court Procedure for Estates Consisting of Personal Property Only Valued less than $100,000
A Small Estate Affidavit may be used to claim personal property of a deceased person valued less than $100,000 by a person claiming to be an heir or beneficiary of the decedent. A certified copy of a death certificate and the Small Estate Affidavit may be presented at any time after forty days from the date of a decedent's death to any person who is indebted to or who has possession of any personal property belonging to the decedent.
How to Start a Probate with the Court:
A proceeding to probate a deceased person’s estate is begun by the filing of a petition and the original of the deceased’s Will, if there is one, along with a certified copy of the Death Certificate with the court.
Current Filing Fee for a Probate:
The filing fee currently charged by the Snohomish County Superior Court Clerk is $240.00.
Authority to Act on Behalf of and for the Deceased’s Estate
With a Will – Letters Testamentary:
Upon the presentation of a Petition, Original Will and a certified copy of a Death Certificate and provided the Will names the petitioner (the person filing the probate) as Personal Representative, is “self-proving” (most Wills are self-proving) and has provisions for “non-intervention powers,” and waives the requirement for a bond, the court will direct the Court Clerk to issue Letters Testamentary (see definition below).
Without a Will – Letters of Administration:
Upon the presentation of a Petition and a certified copy of a Death Certificate and the petitioner is the surviving spouse or state registered domestic partner, or such person as he or she may request to have appointed; or the next of kin in the following order: (a) Child or children; (b) father or mother; (c) brothers or sisters; (d) grandchildren; (e) nephews or nieces, and asking to be appointed the personal representative of the estate, the court will direct the Court Clerk to issues Letters of Administration (see definition below).
Before letters testamentary or of administration are issued, each personal representative or an officer of a bank or trust company qualified to act as a personal representative, must take and sign an oath before some person authorized to administer oaths, that the duties of the trust as personal representative will be performed according to law. The oath must be filed with the Clerk of the Court.
A Bond may also be required.
When the terms of the decedent's Will state an intent that the personal representative appointed to administer the estate shall not be required to furnish bond or other security, or when the personal representative is the surviving spouse or surviving domestic partner of the decedent and it appears to the court that the entire estate, after provision for expenses and claims of creditors, will be distributable to such spouse or surviving domestic partner, then such personal representative shall not be required to give a bond or other security as a condition of appointment. In all cases where a bank or trust company authorized to act as personal representative is appointed as personal representative, no bond shall be required. In all other cases, unless waived by the court, the personal representative shall provide a bond or other security, in such amount and with such surety or sureties, as the court may direct.
Every person required to furnish a bond must, before receiving letters testamentary or of administration, execute a bond to the State of Washington that the personal representative shall faithfully execute the duty of the trust according to law.
What are Letters Testamentary (Will) and Letters of Administration (No-Will)?
As Decedent's Personal Representative, your Letters evidence your official grant of authority. Chances are that when you deal with a third party on behalf of the estate, the third party (eg, a bank or brokerage) may want to see and possibly keep for its records, a copy of your Letters and may require additional evidence of your authority
What are the Duties of a Personal Representative?
It shall be the duty of every personal representative to settle the estate, including the administration of any non-probate assets within control of the personal representative quickly as possible, without sacrifice to the probate or non-probate estate. The personal representative shall collect all debts due the deceased and pay all debts as hereinafter provided. The personal representative shall be authorized to take such actions as pertain to the management and settlement of the estate, and may collect any debts due the estate or to recover any property, real or personal.
Federal and State Estate Taxes
The estate tax is a tax on the right to transfer property at the time of death based on the actual value or fair market value of the property on the date of death. The current federal estate tax exclusion for a single individual is $5.34 million, minus gifts you have given during your lifetime. The current Washington State estate tax exclusion for a single individual is $2,012,000.
There is no tax if the value of the property is below the exclusions amounts.
Closing/Finalizing the Estate:
In many cases a Personal Representative who has fully administered and settled an estate will file with the court and mail to all heirs of the estate a copy of a Notice and Declaration of Completion stating the estate has been fully administered, settled and distributed to the heirs. Any heir objecting to the Notice and Declaration must file an objection within thirty (30) days of the filing the Declaration of Completion.
Any objections to the administration, settlement and distribution of an estate will require a court hearing and approval to finalize and close the estate.
Attorney’s Fees and Costs
Our attorney’s fees are based on an hourly rate along with an estimate of the amount of time we believe it will take to finalize your probate. Our current fees are listed on our website in “Services” under “Fees.” Probate cases that are resolved by agreement or settlement will cost less than ones that are contested and must be resolved by the court or arbitrator.
Note to Do-It-Yourselfers:
If you choose to do your own probate, we always recommend you have our office review your paperwork before you file it with the court. We do charge a minimal fee for this review or any other services you request. We also encourage you to consult with our office during the probate process as you feel the need. If, at any time, you feel overwhelmed with the probate process and doing it yourself we will be ready to take over your representation.
Our office keeps itemized billing records that are created at the same time as specific services provided for your case. This itemized billing statement is provided to you at the end of each month. You should review this billing statement carefully as it is not only a record of our time and charges for your case but also a record of our services provided.
Our office also prepares a written attorney fee agreement for each case. The agreement is signed by you and Gregory L. Davies. The original is kept in our client file and a copy is provided to you.
Thank you for your interest in our office and our legal services. If you have any questions concerning your probate (or any other legal matter), whether you hire our office work with you or you are processing your probate case yourself, please contact our office to set up an appointment to meet with Gregory L. Davies.
To find our find out more about how our law firm can help you with your probate needs, contact Gregory L. Davies, Attorney at Law, in Everett, Washington. Call (425) 259-2755 or email us