Your Wishes

An investment in your family's future

A comprehensive estate plan is an investment in your family’s future. You will have peace of mind knowing that you have clearly articulated your wishes so that no one is left having to make difficult decisions on your behalf, quarrel over an inheritance, or navigate how to handle your remains. Our experienced estate planning attorneys will help you understand the components of a plan, your options, and how to make the best decisions for you and your family.

 

 

Everyone needs an estate plan. If you own anything, have children, or have specific wishes, whether related to your property or your healthcare, it is critically important to make planning a priority. If you are considering divorce, it is crucial to update or put some essential estate planning documents in place to protect you as you navigate your future. 

 

 

As your life changes, you need to revisit your estate plan to ensure everything is still current. We recommend a review every three to five years and any time there is a significant life change in your family. Examples include the birth of a child or grandchild, marrying, moving to another state, purchasing or selling real estate, or divorcing.  Tax laws also change periodically, so it is a good idea to review your estate plan even if you have not had significant changes in your life.

TOOLS IN ESTATE PLANNING

Wills & Trusts

 

Wills and trusts are different tools used in estate planning. They accomplish different estate planning goals and are often used together. A will explains how your affairs should be handled when you die, most specifically who your assets should be distributed to and how. 

 

A will also appoints the individual or individuals you wish to manage your affairs after you die. If you die in Washington State without a will, you pass intestate, and the state intestacy laws will determine how your affairs and property are handled with no regard for your wishes. 

THE FOUR REQUIREMENTS

Legal Requirements for a Last Will & Testament in Washington

 

There are four minimum requirements to create a valid will in Washington State:

 

  1. Your will must be in writing; handwritten or typed
  2. It needs to appoint an executor, the person responsible for carrying out your wishes  
  3. It must be signed by you and dated
  4. Two competent adults must witness your signing and sign it themselves

 

Washington State does not require you to have your will notarized; however, it is a good idea as it makes your will easier to authenticate should it need to go through probate. Additional language is necessary to ensure that your family can administer your will in the most efficient and stress-free manner. Engaging the services of a knowledgeable wills and trusts lawyer can also help ensure your will can be affirmed as valid when the time comes.

 

Many risks come with attempting to draft a last will and testament on your own. A single error could render your document unenforceable, making your estate plan more complicated. Comprehensive planning is critical to ensuring the words you have put in your will can be enforced.  

 

Let our wills lawyers assist you throughout this process. To get started, schedule a call with our firm as soon as possible.

MORE THAN A WRITTEN DOCUMENT

Trusts in Washington State

 
Because of their integral role in the estate planning process, trusts are often confused with wills. Additionally confusing is the fact that many wills contain trusts within them, called testamentary trusts. 

A trust is more than a written document that outlines a person’s final wishes. It is an entity that holds assets for your benefit and is managed by an individual known as a trustee. A trust that is within a will is not created until your death. Other types of trusts are created while you are alive and have an active management role over assets during your lifetime.

In general, the creator of a trust, called a grantor or settlor, owns the property that will ultimately fund the trust. When they transfer assets to the trust, they no longer own these assets. Because the grantor no longer owns the assets they transferred to the trust, those assets will not go through the probate process at the end of the grantor’s life. This transfer makes it possible to avoid the need for probate court entirely, assuming your trust is regularly reviewed and maintained during your lifetime.

However, putting assets into a trust does not mean the grantor can no longer use them. A grantor can name themselves as a beneficiary of the trust to provide for their living expenses during their lifetime. Upon their passing, the assets in the trust may transfer to other beneficiaries outside of the probate process.

Trusts can be revocable or irrevocable. You can change a revocable trust during your life. An irrevocable trust requires court approval for the grantor to change the terms after its creation. Our firm’s local estate planning attorneys can advise you on the benefits and drawbacks of revocable or irrevocable trusts.
 

SERVING DIFFERENT PURPOSES

Living Versus Testamentary Trusts

 

Living and testamentary trusts are the two most common types of trusts, but they serve very different purposes. A living trust goes into effect during your lifetime and is typically revocable. One goal for this type of trust could be to cover your living expenses for the remainder of your life and entitle other beneficiaries to the trust’s assets at the end of your life.

 

Another frequent purpose for a living trust is to hold and manage assets for an individual receiving Medicaid or supplemental security income (SSI). A living trust enables the recipient to benefit from the assets but not own them while preventing any disruption in the services they receive.  

 

A testamentary trust does not take effect until your passing. It is used to manage the distribution of your assets, for example, if your assets will go to a minor child or an individual with special needs. A testamentary trust attorney based in our Washington office can offer additional insight on the purposes of each type of trust so you can make an educated decision. Reach out to one of our Washington State trusts attorneys today.

TAKING THE BURDEN OFF YOUR FAMILY

Medical Directives & Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare


An advanced directive is a formal way of saying what you want and when in terms of your medical care if you should become incapacitated. You can outline if you want to be on life-support or do not want specific measures taken. A directive takes the stress and burden off your family because they have a clear set of instructions and are not left making any guesses about your wishes.


Power of Attorney

As part of your estate plan, you should have a durable financial power of attorney (POA) and a healthcare power of attorney. Your durable power of attorney identifies the person you want to make critical financial decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. 


A durable power of attorney can also be prepared to be effective immediately if that is your desire. Your agent named in a financial POA can ensure your bills are paid and manage your finances, including liquidating funds to pay for your treatment or care.


Each power of attorney is a legal document that grants decision-making power to an agent you select. Their authority is only valid while you are incapacitated unless you draft it to be effective immediately, which is rarely desired. 


A healthcare power of attorney (POA) appoints a trusted agent you select to make critical medical decisions for you and to make arrangements for organ donation or disposition of remains at the end of your life. Generally, your estate plan will also include a HIPAA release allowing your agent access to your medical records as governed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. 


Both instruments have a critical role to play in your estate plan. They can protect your financial interests, your health, and even outline how you might prefer to pass. These important incapacitation documents can ensure that your chosen family member or friend can make decisions for you instead of a court-appointed guardian. 


Contacting one of our experienced estate planning attorneys will ensure that your POAs are included in your comprehensive plan. If you have questions or would like to get started, call us today to schedule a consultation.


Burial, Cremation, Composting, & Donation

You have many options regarding your final arrangements. You may even have options you have never considered. Some might require advanced planning, like the intention to donate your body to science or to have your body composted under Washington’s new laws. You may want to learn about “green” burial options or your choices for organ donation. 


Our team of qualified estate planning attorneys can help you understand what options you have in Washington State for the disposition of your remains and ensure your wishes are included as part of your overall estate plan.

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