Experienced Estate Planning – Close to you
Puyallup-Tacoma, Pierce County, Thurston County.
‘Just make sure you have prepared your estate plan!’ – The King
What is Estate Planning?
Simply put – Estate planning is defined as, “the process of putting a legally binding structure for the future of your current and projected assets.”
Who should do estate planning?
Statistically, more than half of Americans choose not to have estate planning in place. If you choose not to protect your legacy your assets will pass to your descendants pursuant to the Washington state laws of intestate succession.
Most people, in our experience, would prefer to have a plan in place rather than rely on a statute to ensure their loved ones truly benefit from their estate.
Estate planning goes beyond the Last Will and Testament or Revocable Trust Agreement, though. If you become suddenly incapacitated and don’t have a health care directive or power of attorney for financial matters, your loved ones may be forced to institute costly court action just to be able to have the authority to make decisions on your behalf.
Is online estate planning right for me?
Taking the time and effort to plan your estate has never been easier (or more cost-effective)! With so many online services providing estate planning at historically low prices, one must be wary as the one-size fits all approach of many online vendors isn’t necessarily in the best interests of you or your loved ones.
If you do choose to go the online route – don’t forget to follow the Washington laws governing the execution of your chosen documents.
Truthfully, an estate plan is as fluid as life itself. People get married, have children, get divorced, have grandchildren, and experience illnesses and death. Any of these major life events would typically require an update to your estate plan – and that is where an online vendor provides little guidance or support. In that regard, we recommend seeking out an attorney focused on developing a long-term partnership with you and your family.
“Your estate plan will need to be updated any time you experience a major life event. Evergreen Law Office proudly offers up to two updates of all estate planning documents prepared for our clients. Just another way we choose to be #IntentionallyDifferent” – Adam Shelton, Managing Attorney
What types of estate planning documents are necessary?
The type of estate planning needed by you will depend on your specific circumstances and will also depend on the goals you have for your assets (both current and future). The types of planning vehicles we advise our clients will depend on our assessment of both your individual circumstances and ultimate goals. Our experienced estate planning attorneys advise our clients on the following estate planning vehicles.
What is a Will?
A will (Last Will and Testament) is a legal document that sets forth your final wishes regarding the distribution of your property (both real and personal), and can also provide guidance regarding the care of any minor children you may have. You will also name a trusted individual to carry out the terms of your Last Will and Testament (known as the “Executor,” “Executrix,” or “Personal Representative.”)
For a will to be valid in Washington, you must sign your will in front of two disinterested witnesses, and your witnesses must also sign the will. Washington has no requirement to notarize your will, however, Washington does allow you to make your will “self-proving” which, will speed up any probate process. To make your will “self-proving” (which we highly recommend), you AND the disinterested witnesses must sign the will in front of a notary public.
What is a Revocable Living Trust Agreement?
In legal terms, a “Revocable Trust” is a trust (which is a legal vehicle) where the creator(s) of the trust can alter or cancel provisions (or the entire trust altogether) depending on the wishes or goals of the creator(s) and during the life of the creator(s). Depending on the directions given to the trustee(s) (the holder of the assets) by the creator(s), the trustee(s) will distribute the assets to the beneficiaries or hold and manage the trust property.
A Revocable Trust is a private document that becomes irrevocable upon the grantor’s death.
Advantages of a Revocable Trust
- If the creator(s) experience(es) health concerns, a Revocable Trust allows that the creator’s chosen trustee will be able to control the principal without court involvement.
- A Revocable Trust allows for the transfer of real property both inside and outside of the state of Washington without the need for probate or ancillary probate.
- If a beneficiary is a minor who cannot hold property in his or her name, a Revocable Trust will allow the trustee to control any trust assets for the benefit of the minor without having a court appoint a guardian. (It also allows for the creator(s) to put certain controls on how those assets benefit any minor beneficiary).
- A Revocable Trust can, under certain circumstances, provide certain tax advantages.
Note: We recommend a vehicle known as a “Pour-over” will to also be put into place when relying upon a Revocable Trust Agreement as your estate planning vehicle of choice.
What is a Trustee?
In terms of a Revocable Trust, a Trustee is any person or organization that is named in the Trust document. The Trustee holds legal title to the asset or group of assets for another person or persons (family), referred to as the beneficiary (or beneficiaries).
Trustees have many responsibilities, and Revocable Trust Agreements can be drafted to expand and contract a Trustee(s) power(s).
What is a Living Will?
Incapacity – like life – happens. In the event, you are unable to communicate your wishes in situations where you are incapacitated, a living will informs your medical providers on many of your most important medical decisions. Some of the most important decisions addressed in a living will are:
- Whether to refuse or accept life-saving medical treatment when you are terminally ill or permanently unconscious.
- Whether you will accept pain medication.
- Whether you will accept artificial hydration.
and many many more. Every adult should make efforts to get a living well because while we all value our lives…there are some circumstances where being allowed to live may be worse than death.
What is a Community Property Agreement?
Washington is one of eight other states in the country that follows the “Community Property” standard of law. This means that a spouse or registered domestic partner owns 50% of all property acquired during the marriage or domestic partnership.
A couple, however, can agree in writing to change the character of the community property, which can include all money earned during the marriage or domestic partnership. That is where the Community Property Agreement comes into play. Many of our blended families are interested in these types of vehicles.
Washington has specific rules regarding the execution of Community Property Agreements. Those include: (1) Any community property agreement must be in writing and (2) The writing must be witnessed and notarized as well.
How much does an estate plan cost?