Tag Archive for estate planning

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

Estate Planning To Do List

No one wants to think about end of life issues. But right now is the time to jump into estate planning to make it easier on your family and loved ones in the event of your death. By engaging in estate planning now, you also have control of what happens to your property and other possessions so they are disbursed according to your wishes. Get started with these five estate planning tasks.

Write a Will

Without a will, you allow the state to call all the shots about how your estate is divided up when you die. If you still have dependents, the state also decides what will happen to them. Having a will alleviates these problems. We offer a do-it-yourself will kit for Washington state, complete with instructions, for those who have simple wishes for their estate. Choose from an instant download or request a print verson be mailed to you. We can also help get your will notarized at our office located in the King County Courthouse office. If you have more complex needs, hire a probate attorney. Click here to view the list of probate and estate planning law firms listed in our referral service.


Designate a Power of Attorney for Finances/Legal/Health Care

In Washington state, in the event that you are not available or incapable of acting on your own behalf or if you need health care decisions made for you, a General and Durable Power of Attorney with health care provisions, designating someone to make these decisions on your behalf is an essential document in your estate planning. The person you choose can be an attorney, a family member or a close friend who you trust to make decisions on your behalf. Since this form can be easily completed on your own, we offer a do-it-yourself General and Durable Power of Attorney legal kit for Washington statey, available as an instant download or as a print version. Always seek the advice of an attorney if you need help completing the forms.

Choose Health Care Directive

You also need a Health Care Directive (Directive to Physicians/Living Will) to instruct your physician and/or health care providers on your intentions as to organ donation and whether or not you want extra-ordinary life sustaining care such as feeding and breathing if your are in a terminal condition. This legal form can be easily completed on your own, so we offer a do-it-yourself Health Care Directive (Directive to Physicians/Living Will) legal kit for Washington state, available as an instant download or as a print version. If you spend part of your time living in another state, make sure you have a Health Care Power of Attorney for that state, too. Always seek the advice of an estate planning attorney if you need help completing the forms. Click here to view our list of probate and estate planning law firms listed in our referral service.

Gather Estate Planning Documents

Your family and attorney need to know the whereabouts of your important paperwork, such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, property deeds, life insurance policies, contact lists and financial information. Otherwise, if they must search your entire home or arrange to get copies of these important documents, it could take them months to close your estate. Paäge et Cie, experts at organizing and managing important documents, has created a  checklist you can download for free. The checklist provides a thorough list of all of the documents you need and includes space for keeping notes about the location of each piece of paperwork.

 

Choose an Executor

An executor, also known as an administrator, settles the debts you leave behind and disburses your property and possessions according to your will. An attorney can act as your executor while also helping with various aspects of your estate before you die, including writing wills, helping you set up a power of attorney and safekeeping important documents needed to settle your estate. Click here to view the list of estate planning law firms we work with. See our recent blog post, Questions to Ask A Potential Attorney or Law Firm Before You Hire Them.