A common misconception in Washington state estate planning is that all assets will automatically transfer from one spouse to the other immediately upon the first death simply because we live in a community property state.
We often work with surviving spouses who are surprised to learn that they do in fact often need to go through probate to clear titles, transfer assets, deal with creditor claims, or work through inheritance rights of step-children after their spouse passes away. When we work with new estate planning clients, we get an opportunity to review their family situation including asset mix, blended family issues, separate versus community property assessment, future inheritances, past gifts, and a variety of other factors affecting the type of planning necessary for their specific case. Sometimes we really can eliminate the need for probate after the first death with the use of a community property agreement in conjunction with various beneficiary designations, but it may not always be the best plan. Probate can actually be a helpful part of the process when issues like Washington state estate tax or special needs trusts are involved. During our estate planning meetings with clients, we review the pros and cons of various options and let the client decide on the final best course of action.
We love to educate our clients about the options and techniques available to them as well as how trusts and estates work. See some of our answers to frequently asked questions and common misconceptions on our website. For assistance with Spokane and Washington state wills, trusts, probate, trust administration, and business formation and succession, contact Megan Lewis Law, PLLC.
Megan M. Lewis