Do I need a Will?
Depending on your circumstances, you may not
need a Will to ensure that your estate is distributed accordingto
your wishes. For instance, married couples can execute a Community
Property Agreement that will automatically vest all property
they own in the surviving spouse (although if either wasmarried
previously, children from the previous marriage may have a
statutory claim on part of the estate).
If you die
without a Will and have no surviving spouse, Washington
state’s “descent and distribution”
statute will divide your estate between your legal
heirs – first your children, then your grandchildren
(if one or more of your children fail to survive you).
If you aren’t survived by any lineal descendants,
the list of successors expands to parents, grandparents,
aunts and uncles, cousins – and ultimately,
the State of Washington.
Even if your plan of distribution parallels the State’s
distribution formula, however, preparing a will can
save your heirs a lot of headaches and stress in closing
If your estate has to be
probated without a will, your personal representative
may have to post a surety bond to protect the interests
of heirs and creditors. In addition, whoever steps
up to administer your estate will not automatically
qualify for “nonintervention powers”–
the authority to transact business on behalf of the
estate and settle it without having to get court approval.
What other estate planning
documents are important?
A General Durable Power of Attorney authorizes
someone to conduct your business affairs if you aren’t
able to.A Health Care Power of Attorney names someone to make
health care decisions on your behalf. An Advanced Care Directive
sets out your instructions regarding life support and tube
feeding. Not having these documents could create more problems
for your family than not having a Will.
I hear a lot about ‘living trusts’
— should I have one?
Revocable Living Trusts have become popular
estate planning instruments, particularly in states such as
New York and California where the probate process is more
complicated and more costly than it is here.
Washington’s probate process – the official, court-administered
closing of an estate – is fairly uncomplicated if the
Will is uncontested. Avoiding probate alone probably isn’t
a sufficient reason to consider a Trust. On the other hand,
if you fall into one or more of the categories below, a Living
Trust might be of particular value:
- You have an estate subject to state or federal estate
taxes (currently a net worth of more than than $3.5 million)
- You own real property in another state; or
- You are concerned about your health and want to ensure
your assets are managed according to your wishes if you
Can I use a ‘form’
Will or Trust to save money?
If you use a “canned” or form estate
planning document, whether you buy it at an office supply
store or over the Internet, you run a very real risk of creating
unintended problems for your heirs. “One-size-fits-all”
documents may not address specific provisions of statelaw
(even though such documents are often advertisedas “valid
in all 50 states”).
The Washington State Bar Association cautions, “Although
‘do-it-yourself’ forms andkits are available,
they may not consider individual circumstances and relationships,
and could cause litigation, Will contests and other problems
in transferring property to heirs.” One-size-fits-all”
documents may not address specific provisions of state law
(even though such documents are often advertised as “valid
Contact us today to schedule
a consultation at (360)501-6221 or firstname.lastname@example.org