Essential Steps in Estate Planning: Securing Your Family’s Future

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Just because your estate does not have a high monetary value, you still need an estate plan. Everyone who has anyone in their life needs estate planning, even people who own little or no property.

Likewise, you are never too young for an estate plan. If you are old enough that you have ever had a job, paid bills, or taken care of someone else’s financial or non-financial needs, such as those of your children or your parents, you will be causing stress for the people closest to you if you do not get started on estate planning.

Building a thorough estate plan is a multi-step process. Consequently, it’s never too soon to contact a Seattle estate planning lawyer. Below are a few issues an estate planning lawyer may discuss with you.

The Importance of Gratitude in Estate Planning

Your estate plan reflects your hopes and fears. In fact, it is often a specific fear, such as a probate dispute between your current spouse and your children from a previous marriage, that forms the impetus to get started on estate planning.

Some people get started on their estate plans after a health scare or the untimely death of a friend. In cases like these, estate planning is a response to the realization that life is fragile. You might be so healthy and your family situation may be so stable that you cannot relate to these fears.

Therefore, it can help to start the estate planning process with gratitude. Perhaps you are grateful for your spouse and your children. If you have never been married, maybe you are grateful for your friends and your pets. Whoever you care about, think of your estate plan as a gift to them, even if they get little or no financial benefit from it.

How to Create a “Financial First Aid Kit”

A financial first aid kit will make the task of administering your estate easier for your personal representative. A financial first aid kit contains the contact information and login credentials the personal representative of your estate will need to know to manage your finances during probate. This includes the passwords to your computer and smartphone since it is likely that your closest family members do not know this, as well as the account numbers for your bank accounts, mortgage loans, and utility bills.

What it Means to Formalize Your Will

Your will should list your instructions about who will inherit your property after you die. You can leave property to anyone you choose, including but not limited to your direct descendants, extended family members, friends, and charitable organizations. It should also indicate your choice of personal representative, plus a personal representative who will assume the task if the original personal representative predeceases you.

If you have minor children, you should choose someone to act as their legal guardian if you and your children’s other parent both die while your children are minors. You should also appoint a successor guardian in case the original guardian predeceases you.

To make your will legally valid in Washington state, you must print it on paper and sign it in the presence of two witnesses, who must also sign. Washington law does not require a will to be notarized. Any adults can sign your will as witnesses. However, it is better if they are not beneficiaries of your will.

How to Decide Whether Your Long-Term Care Strategy Depends on Long-Term Care Insurance or Medicaid

A thorough estate plan not only addresses what will happen to your property after you die but also how you will pay for long-term care. Medicare pays for most of your medical expenses after you reach age 65, but it only pays for 100 days of nursing home care.

No matter how healthy you are now, there is a chance that, at some point, you will need to spend more than a few months in a nursing home or assisted living facility. If you are healthy and have a steady income and think that you will eventually want to move to an assisted living facility or retirement home, long-term care insurance is a good investment. The premiums are low if you buy a policy long before you need long-term care, and this insurance will enable you to live in an assisted living facility for multiple years for a fraction of the sticker price.

Medicaid will pay for nursing home care, no matter your age, but it will also try to get every penny it can out of you and your estate. If you think that you will eventually need Medicaid nursing home care, start planning early about how to protect your assets from Medicaid estate recovery.

Why It’s Critical to Have a Healthcare Power of Attorney and Financial Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a document that gives another person, known as the agent, the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of you, the principal. Unless otherwise specified, a power of attorney refers to financial decisions. The document that gives someone else the authority to consent to your medical treatment on your behalf is called a healthcare power of attorney, healthcare surrogate, or medical advance directive.

Why You Should Declutter Your House

Decluttering your house is the easiest task to procrastinate, but you should work on it in the moments when it feels less daunting than other aspects of estate planning. The less clutter you have, the easier it is for your family to help you move into an assisted living facility or to clean out your house after you die.

Contact Elise Buie Family Law About Estate Planning

An estate planning attorney can help you take baby steps toward a thorough estate plan. Though thinking about illness and what happens after you die is probably unpleasant, it is necessary and a compassionate estate planning attorney can make the process less challenging. Contact our estate planning team at Elise Buie Family Law in Seattle, Washington, to set up a consultation. We are here to support you.

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