Common Questions Regarding Estate Planning
At what point should I consider having an estate plan?
Nearly every person has someone or something that is important to them. If you fall into either of these categories, you need to create an estate plan as soon as possible. This ensures that you are able to provide detailed guidance to your loved ones in the event something unexpected happens.
Many clients think they don’t need an estate plan because they don’t have a lot of assets or are just starting their families. Unfortunately, if you die without a will, a probate court will decide what happens to your assets according to state law, without any consideration for what your intentions may have been. In addition, having an estate plan is not only about your assets. You also want to ensure that your spouse and children are taken care of, and it is important to decide who you want to make decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself.
It’s important to remember that an estate plan doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive; it just has to be done properly and serve your needs. As your situation can change over time, you can always update your estate plan to ensure that it continues to serve your needs.
What are the various items included in an estate plan?
Every situation is different, and our experienced attorney Darcel Lobo will review your particular needs and make recommendations based on your specific goals. In general, this can mean your estate plan will include items such as:
- A will
- Trusts, including revocable living trusts
- Health care directives or living wills
- Powers of attorney for medical or financial decisions
- A guardianship for any minor children you may have
What is a revocable living trust?
A revocable living trust is a type of estate plan whereby a person’s assets can be distributed to their loved ones without needing the oversight or approval of a probate court. The person who creates the revocable living trust is called the trustor, and they manage the revocable living trust as a trustee. They have complete control over their revocable living trust during their lifetime. They also elect someone to act as their successor trustee, who will administer and distribute the revocable living trust after the initial trustee passes away.
Why should I consider creating a revocable living trust?
People create revocable living trusts for many reasons, and our office can help you determine if one is right for you. The most common reasons are:
- Avoiding probate
- Keeping an estate plan private, as opposed to having a will publicly filed in court
- Better protection of their assets
- Minimizing the costs of administration for loved ones
- Tax planning strategies
- Maintaining control over the distribution of assets to loved ones, especially minors
Are there any restrictions on who I can appoint as my successor trustee in my revocable living trust?
While you generally can pick any adult you would like to serve as your successor trustee, it cannot be someone who has been convicted of a felony or any crime of what may be considered “moral turpitude.” It is most common for people to nominate a family member or a friend to act as successor trustee, although you may also ask a bank or trust company.
What is a power of attorney?
A power of attorney is a document that gives another person certain powers to act on someone’s behalf for varied purposes. Most commonly, our office provides two types of power of attorney — one for health care purposes and another for financial purposes. These powers of attorney allow our clients to elect someone to make health care or financial decisions for them if the client is unable to do so. A power of attorney is only valid during one’s lifetime. After the person passes away, the power of attorney terminates.
Can I protect my pets in my estate plan?
People don’t always think about their pets in an estate plan. While the law considers pets as property, many people think of their pets as much more than that. Their pets are their family, and it’s important to them to ensure that their pets are protected and well taken care of. If you have pets, we can prepare the proper documentation in your estate plan to ensure that they will be well taken care of.
What is a health care directive?
A health care directive, also known as a living will, is a document in which you state your preference for health care treatment if you are in a permanent unconscious state. A health care directive concerns elections regarding artificial nutrition and hydration, life support, CPR, and blood transfusions.
How do I ensure my children’s inheritance is protected?
This is a concern among most of our clients who have children who are minors or young adults. You’ve worked hard to acquire your assets, and the last thing you want to have happen is for one of your children to irresponsibly deplete their inheritance. We can tailor your estate plan so your children do not receive their inheritance in one lump sum, but instead in disbursement amounts that are predetermined by you.
How can I avoid probate?
There are several options for avoiding probate in Washington, including:
- Creating a revocable living trust
- Having a community property agreement
- Electing beneficiary designations
- Owning joint bank accounts with right of survivorship
- Creating a “payable on death” account
- Transfer on death deeds
At our Normandy Park office, our lawyer will provide answers to your specific questions during your estate planning initial consultation. Call us today to schedule an appointment: 206-408-1688 or send us an email to arrange a time that works for you.