If you do not have a will, Washington state law will determine how your estate will be distributed through a process called intestate succession. The state will follow the guidelines of RCW 11.04.15 to distribute your assets in certain amounts to specific next of kin. In addition, a court will determine who will care for your children if the other parent is unavailable to do so. This method may not be representative of your desires or wishes.
A Last Will and Testament will provide you the opportunity to provide for the people that you care about, leave particular items to certain people, appoint guardians for your children, establish a trust for the benefit of your children, and provide instructions for your funeral. It removes the questions and doubts that can arise when there is no evidence of the deceased person’s wishes.
Probate refers to the entire process of administering a decedent’s estate. When someone dies, this court appointed process makes sure that assets are distributed to the correct beneficiaries and allows a process to be in place in the event that there is a disagreement.
A Personal Representative is the person in charge of administering the estate. S/he will collect all of the probate assets, preserve and manage it, pay creditors, and distribute the property to the appropriate beneficiaries.
The Personal Representative should possess characteristics that demonstrate that they would do a good job administering the estate. Traits to consider are: honesty, common sense, financially responsible, proximity, and age/health.
Estate tax is a tax on the right to transfer property at the time of death. When you die, you may owe estate tax depending on the value of your estate. There are two types of estate taxes: Washington has its own state tax and there is a Federal Estate Tax.
A trust is a fiduciary arrangement that allows a 3rd party (trustee), to hold assets/property on behalf of a beneficiary(ies) according to the rules that you want followed. Many establish trusts to reduce the estate tax liability, to protect property, and to avoid probate.
Whether you need a trust depends on your situation and your goals. For example, if you have minor children, a trust may be a good legal tool to use to ensure the proper care and support of your children. It would eliminate the need for bonds, as well as, avoid supervision by the court of the minor children’s inherited assets.
A power of attorney is a formal method of creating an agency relationship under which one or more persons has the ability to act on your behalf as your agent. With a valid power of attorney, your agent will be able to take any action that is permitted in the document. You would be able to choose who will act for you and defines their authority and its limits. The term “attorney” is not synonymous with “lawyer” and thus anyone can serve as an agent even if the person has no legal training.
One would use a power of attorney to prepare for situations when you may not be able to act on your own behalf due to absence or incapacity.
A Healthcare Directive (Living Will) is your written expression of how you want to be treated in certain medical circumstances. It allows you to express your preferences concerning medical treatment in an extreme medical situation when you cannot communicate, including at the end of your life. For example, you would be able to express whether you wish to be given life-sustaining treatments in the event you are terminally ill or injured, decide in advance whether you wish to be provided food and water via intravenous devices, and give other medical directions that impact your care. Your wishes would be make known to the physicians, as well as, your family so that no one would have to guess about what you would want.
ESTATE PLANNING PROCESS
At the Law Office of Wynnie Johnson, PLLC, we understand that there are many roadblocks to completing an estate plan, time and money being two of them. Our goal is to make this process simple and affordable. We offer cost-effective, estate planning packages. Call or contact us today for a free, 15 minute consultation at (425) 369-4958.
Our office would be happy to send you a client intake form that will help us in meeting your estate planning goals. In the meantime, some questions to think through would be:
- How much do we have in assets? (real estate, vehicles, investment accounts, bank accounts, etc)
- Who would you appoint as your Executor?
- Do you want to make sure particular belongings go to certain people?
- If you have minor children, who would you want their guardian to be?
- Would you like to create a trust for your minor children?
- If you create a trust, who would you pick as the trustee to manage the money for the benefit of your children?
Our business office is conveniently located in Issaquah, right off the I-90 exit.
Estate planning documents are dynamic documents that need to be changed when the circumstances of your life change. For example, birth of new child, change in marital status, or change in health status.
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