What’s the Difference Between Probate and Estate Planning Attorneys?

Knowing the differences between probate and estate planning attorney can help you choose the right one for your needs.

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between attorneys who handle probate versus those who provides estate planning? Simply stated, a probate attorney deals with what happens after a person dies. An estate planning attorney provides legal advice and guidance while a person is still alive. Both probate and estate planning attorneys are state licensed.

Visit the Washington State Bar Association to make sure the attorney you want to hire is licensed in Washington state.

Probate

A probate attorney files your will with the court and appoints an executor of your estate. After your death, a probate attorney also pays bills, files taxes, obtains appraisals of your property and distributes assets and property to your heirs. He can also make decisions in regards to your retirement plan.

This lawyer also files a final accounting of your estate and settles any disputes. Some probate attorneys handle legal matters and represent the beneficiary of an estate. Click here to view our referral list of probate attorneys in Washington state.

Related: Click here to read our blog post, 5 Things to Know About Probate in Washington State


Estate Planning

An estate planning attorney helps you plan what happens after your death. While you can create your own will and health care directives, some people prefer to hire an estate planning attorney to write these documents.

Estate planning attorneys also help set up your estate so your assets are distributed the way you want upon your death. This might involve setting up trusts and joint accounts to avoid estate taxes. An estate attorney also helps create non-probate assets so you control how everything will be distributed. This allows the court to more quickly distribute your assets, since non-probate assets are not controlled by the court, according to ElderLawAnswers, a law firm specializing in elder law.

Your estate planning attorney can also set up the proper paperwork to create joint accounts, bank and life insurance accounts with beneficiaries, and property put in a trust.

Finding an estate planning attorney familiar with Washington state law is important to avoid having your plan deemed invalid by the court, says The Balance. Click here to view our referral list of estate planning attorneys in Washington state.

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