Archive for do it yourself legal kits

National Preparedness Month: Estate Planning – Understanding Wills, Trusts, and Power of Attorney

Estate planning is key for protecting your loved ones and distributing your property the way you choose.

September is National Preparedness Month! Being prepared includes taking time for long-term estate planning. Estate planning explains how your assets will be managed and/or distributed if you become incapacitated.

If you don’t have a will or trust in place, your wishes will not matter. Worse yet, if your family relies on you, they could really suffer. Don’t let this happen to your loved ones, especially if you have family members who rely on you for their very survival. Without a plan in place, your family is left to haggle with the courts (and maybe each other) to settle your estate.

Follow our guide below to get an overview of the various types of assets. Then learn the differences between the basic options in estate planning – wills, trusts, and power of attorney. Then you can make a more informed decision about which ones you use to make your wishes known so the right people and organizations receive what you want to give them.

Assets

Assets cover a wide range of useful or valuable things. Real estate, cars, your home, personal property, investments and cash are all considered assets. Assets include investments such as stocks, bonds and mutual funds. Life insurance is also considered an asset. Personal property, such as collections you own, furniture, antiques, tools, etc., are also considered assets. If you own a business, assets include inventory, equipment, property and accounts receivable.

Nowadays, digital assets also need to be accounted for, including online accounts such as PayPal, bank accounts, investments, social media pages, photos and documents you’ve stored online or in the cloud. Read our blog post, 5 Things you Need to Know about Digital Assets, for more information.

Estate Planning

Making a will, setting up a trust and choosing a power of attorney are all components of estate planning. Estate planning includes managing your assets and deciding how those assets will be distributed once you can no longer make decisions or pass away. Estate planning also involves making plans for your care as well as others who rely on you for their care and support. A carefully thought out estate plan will also keep taxes to a minimum. An attorney can help you create an estate plan that covers all of the bases. See our list of estate planning attorneys who work in Washington state.

Wills

Writing a will as part of estate planning is critical if you don’t want the state deciding how your assets will be distributed. A will is a legal document that describes your wishes for handling your property and assets. There are a few requirements: you must be sounds of mind, 18 years of age or older and in Washington state, you need witnesses to the will. There are a few things a will cannot cover – learn more by reading our recent blog post, Need a Will? What You Need to Know to Write Your Will.

Trusts

Some people prefer to create a trust to determine how their assets will be handled in case they become incapacitated. Trusts are also created to outline how money and assets will be distributed to beneficiaries upon their death. According to an article by AARP, people with larger estates may choose to set up a trust rather than a will. AARP says that setting up a trust minimizes the probate process. It can also provide long-term support for family members with unique needs. Trusts can also be set up to limit the money a beneficiary receives at any one time, says AARP.

 Power of Attorney

If you become incapacitated, your power of attorney can make decisions about your health and assets on your behalf. A power of attorney also manages or pays bills, handles your investments, etc. Most people choose a trusted friend or relative as their power of attorney. We offer to-it-yourself legal kits and forms to set up your power of attorney – click HERE, then scroll down to the “Power of Attorney” kits.

This blog post is not offered as specific advice, which may only be provided by an attorney based upon each individual situation. To find an attorney, click here to visit our attorney referral page

Need a Will? What You Need To Know to Write Your Will

Do you need a will? Find out if you need one, then get tips for writing your will.

Did you know…not everyone will need a will? If you have no relatives and don’t care if the state gets everything you own, you may not need a will. Or, if you have no assets or possessions or you’re okay with your closest relative (such as a parent or a sibling) inheriting everything you own, then you may not need a will in that situation, either. Even so, beware: states vary in how things are divvied up once you pass away.

That’s why taking the time to write a will is important if you want control over what happens to your assets, property and possessions. We offer a do-it-yourself will kit for Washington State that makes it super easy to write down your wishes. But before we get to that, let’s look at some of the basics.

What a Will Does and Doesn’t Cover

A will is a legal document that explains your wishes for distributing your property and assets. Some things aren’t established in a will, though. For instance, according to EstatePlanning.com, a service provided by The WealthCounsel Companies, if you name a beneficiary on your life insurance polity or retirement accounts, a will is not needed for that beneficiary to inherit the asset. But that also means you can’t name someone else to inherit this asset in your will, either.

Requirements for Creating a Will

You’ll need to be legally capable of creating a will, which is why witnesses are required (see below). You must also be 18 years of age or older to make a will. Once you create a will, you need to store it somewhere. If you want your loved ones to find your will, make sure to tell someone where to find it upon your death. If no one can find your will, the state will determine who inherits your property.

 Decide Who Inherits What

Decide who inherits your assets, property and possessions. Don’t forget digital assets. When filling out a will, use the recipient’s whole name, rather than identifying them as your wife or child, as this helps eliminate confusion, says Megan Leonhardt in an article written for Money magazine. She also recommends being very specific about assets, such as providing the address for property or writing down precise descriptions of personal property you plan to leave in your will.

RELATED: Click here to read our blog post about 5 things you need to know about digital assets.

 

Witnesses Required

According to a blog post by Redmond-based Pacific Northwest Law Group (PNWLG), your will must be signed in the presence of two or more witnesses. Otherwise, the will may not be valid. Holographic wills, which are written by hand and do not have witnesses), are not valid in Washington state, says PNWLG. But PNWLG says that if a holographic will was created in a state in which they’re allowed, then Washington state honors the will.

Why worry what will really happen when you can instantly download our do-it-yourself will kit, fill it in, get it witnessed by two people and you’re done? If you have questions or want to divvy up your assets in a way that requires more detailed planning, check out our lawyer referral listings.

Click here to buy an instant download of our DIY Will Kit. If you prefer, you can order a print copy, and we’ll mail the kit to you.

This blog post is not offered as specific advice, which may only be provided by an attorney based upon each individual situation. To find an attorney, click here to visit our attorney referral page.

 

Vacating a Criminal Record in Washington State

Vacating a criminal record in Washington requires filing documents in court.

If a past criminal conviction could cause problems, you may be interested in vacating a criminal record. Clearing an old criminal record is a possibility in the state of Washington as long as you meet all requirements and file the proper court-required documents. Read on to learn about the process of vacating a criminal.

What Is Vacating?

The process of vacating a criminal record is also known as sealing a criminal record or filing for a vacation of a criminal record. If the court grants vacation of a criminal record, it means the record still exists, but its contents cannot be revealed or publicly viewed. In some cases, juvenile records can be destroyed as long as all requirements are met. Click here to read the requirements for vacating a criminal record.

Types of Crimes

Misdemeanors, gross misdemeanor and felony convictions may be vacated if you meet all of the requirements established by the state. Crimes such as sex offenses, pornography, driving under the influence or an attempt to commit a violent offense do not qualify for a vacation.

Reasons for Vacating a Criminal Record

You may need to pass a background check related to housing or employment, and a conviction could negatively impact those chances. Or you may want to obtain a passport or obtain special licenses, but the conviction may cause problems. According to Washington Law Help, if you have a vacated record, you may honestly answer that you were not convicted of a crime, and thus opening the door to more opportunities.

Qualifications

Vacating your conviction doesn’t happen automatically. You must meet certain qualifications. For example, a certain amount of time must have passed since the conviction. Plus, you cannot have any criminal charges pending in any municipal, state or federal court. In addition, you cannot have unpaid fines, fees or court ordered restitution. Other requirements also need to be met. Click here to read the full list of requirements for vacating a criminal record.

Filing Documents

You must fill out and file the correct forms with the court to start the process of vacation a criminal record. Since the forms are fairly straight forward, you may be able to complete them yourself. Click here to buy an instant download of a Misdemeanor Vacating/Sealing Criminal Records Kit. Click here to buy an instant download of a Felony Vacating/Sealing Criminal Records Kit. Click here to buy an instant download of a Records Sealing Kit – Juvenile. All of our kits contain the most recent forms required by Washington state courts.

If you feel you need the services of an attorney to help file the documents or to get advice about your quest to vacate a criminal record, click here to visit our lawyer referral pages.

Additional reading:

Click here to read the State of Washington’s ‘A Guide to Sealing and Destroying Court Records, Vacating Convictions, and Deleting Criminal History Records in Washington State.’