Do you have a Will? Durable Powers of Attorney up to date? Need help putting your affairs in order? We can help.
The properly planned estate requires a careful review of specific desires and financial situations. In short, it is different for everyone. One family may need only a carefully drafted Will and related documents. Another family may need the use of trusts to avoid probate, protect privacy and pass wealth to children. Still another may need a combination of these vehicles as well as a plan to transfer ownership of the family business.
Whether you have a taxable estate, a child with special needs or want to make sure your values are imparted to future generations, we help you determine what you need to accomplish your goals, then create and implement your plan.
Everyone has an estate plan. If you have a Will and/or related documents, you know you have a plan. But even if you don’t have a Will, you still have a plan – a government plan which is established in our laws of intestacy. Each state has its own laws of intestate succession. Generally those laws follow what the legislature thinks most people want. For instance, if you are married, your property goes to your surviving spouse. If you are not married and have children, your property goes to your children in equal shares. If you are not married and have no children, the law looks to parents, then siblings and so forth.
There are, however, major gaps in this “estate plan.” For instance, if you have a minor child, nothing says who will care for that child if both parents are deceased. Furthermore, state laws may leave property to a beneficiary outright, even if a trust for such beneficiary would be more prudent. Another problem is a state’s laws of intestacy are not written specifically for other major planning problems; such as, estate tax issues, care for a disabled spouse or a special needs child, or business succession issues for the self-employed.
This is why a comprehensive Will, tailored to your specific situation can be vital. Your Will sets out who will administer your estate, who will receive what property and in what percentages, and who will care for your children. If you have a taxable estate, which in Washington today, is anyone whose estate is currently valued at more than $2 million, you can form a trust for your spouse to make sure that you minimize or perhaps avoid estate taxes. If you don’t have a taxable estate, but think a surviving spouse may become disabled in his or her later years, or you have a special needs child, a Will written by an experienced and knowledgeable estate planning and elder law attorney is crucial to properly provide for your loved one.
Powers of Attorney
No one has the power to act for you unless you give such a power. If you become incapacitated or disabled, and you have no written document granting the power to another to pay your bills, manage your affairs and make health care decisions, a guardianship, overseen by a court, will be necessary. Such court proceedings can be very expensive and very acrimonious. Moreover, in the end, your wishes still may not be addressed. A guardian you have never met before may gain the power to make decisions you don’t really want.
The best way to ensure this does not happen is to create a comprehensive, thoughtful Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA). Through consultation with a qualified estate planning and elder law attorney, such a document can be created. You can select the people you trust to take care of you and your affairs. You direct what you want done to you. You decide how you want to be cared for and to live your life. In short, a well written Durable Power of Attorney keeps you in control.
You may also want to consider having a Living Will. A Living Will, also known as a Health Care Directive or Directive to Physicians, is a written document in which you state your medical wishes to doctors, hospitals, family, friends, etc. Washington State has a prescribed form Living Will; however, you are entitled to add more detail and guidance to the form. At its core, the document states you do not want any extraordinary medical procedures performed in the event you are in a permanent unconscious condition or a terminal condition. The form also allows you to elect to receive food and water intravenously or to decline to receive food and water intravenously. Additional provisions may include a period of time to remain in an unconscious state before terminating life support or the number or type of doctors to be involved in determining your medical prognosis.