Estate Planning Attorney
What is Estate Planning?
Estate planning contemplates the plan to pass your property and wealth upon your death. Many people want their natural family to receive their estate, but proper estate planning can provide for many other situations including: a child with special needs, charitable gifts, bequests to non-family members, and tax planning for large estates. You may also have questions about the distribution of non-probate assets such as retirement accounts, life insurance policies, annuities, or other assets with beneficiary designations. An estate planning attorney can assist you with the estate plan that best provides for your heirs, by discussing your goals in light of your circumstances and then preparing the appropriate legal documents best suited to those goals. As part of your estate plan, your attorney will also discuss your wishes in the event you were to become incapacitated and other end-of-life care needs.
Wills are legally binding documents in all 50 states, provided they comply with the basic legal requirements. In Washington, a valid is must be signed by a person of “sound mind,” of their free will and with two disinterested attesting witnesses. The will should provide directions for what will happen to their assets after they die, as well as other instructions related to their properties or their passing itself. While wills are, perhaps, the simplest estate planning device, they can be contested on various grounds. Speak with an attorney about how to reduce the likelihood of a will contest and other issues that can arise during probate.
Codicils are used when someone wishes to make minor changes to a will, but not revoke it in its entirety. For example, perhaps a child who was not yet born at the time they executed their will, or now all their children are adults. Sometimes a person simply wishes to add or change a charitable gift. There are many instances where a codicil is appropriate. If you are contemplating changes, you should discuss this with an attorney.
Types of Power of Attorney
- Healthcare Power of Attorney – This document appoints the person you wish to have make medical decisions on your behalf when you are otherwise unable. This is not the “pull the plug” document. You would express your wishes for death with dignity in a separate document.
- Financial Power of Attorney – This document allows a person to act on your behalf for financial matters. This document can be limited for specific types of transactions or very broad in power. You can also choose to either grant power immediately or upon your incapacity.
- General Durable Power of Attorney – Sometimes, it is may be appropriate to combine both healthcare and financial powers under one document. You should discuss this with an attorney to determine what best suits your needs.
This type of estate planning document is known by many names: Revocable Trust, Living Trust, Inter Vivos Trust – these terms all refer to the same type of document. You may create a trust during your lifetime and transfer title to your asset to the trust. During your lifetime, you may be the trustee and beneficiary. Upon your death, your successor trustee will distribute your assets according to the terms of your trust. A trust can be as simple or complicated as the maker needs. Most people do not find the need for a trust to achieve their estate planning goals in Washington. If you believe a trust may be appropriate for you, please discuss this with an attorney to determine whether it is right for you.
A will can also provide for a variety of testamentary trusts – trust that are created under a provision in your will after you die. Trusts are helpful in situations where minors are involved, as they can be controlled either by court, or an appointed trustee, or both, until the child or children in question comes of age. Many testators choose trusts because of the limitations the testator can impose on future spending for their heirs. If your child or spouse has a history of careless spending, you can create guidelines that will only authorize limited withdrawals per year, or only open access to the trust account at a specific age.
One of the key drives of humanity is making our families and loved ones feel safe, secure and comfortable. It is therefore unsurprising that making a comprehensive plan for what happens when you can no longer be there to support them is often extremely stressful and disorienting. The experienced legal professionals at North City Law are here to help!
We Offer the Following Estate Planning, Power of Attorney, Wills and Trusts Services
- Living Trusts
- Irrevocable Trusts
- Special Needs Trusts
- Supplemental Needs Trusts
- Power of Attorney
- Financial Power of Attorney
- Healthcare Power of Attorney
- Durable Power of Attorney
- Directive to Physicians (Living Will)