Wills can help clarify for your family how things should be handled at a difficult time. They don’t just specify who inherits your estate. They also are a way for you to choose the people you trust to make decisions for you after you’re gone, and for you to express your intentions for your family and your resources when you are not there yourself.
We will work with you to create a Will and estate plan that minimizes taxes and expenses, as well as stress to your loved ones. We will also help you evaluate whether your estate plan should include a trust or trusts, whether for tax savings, protecting your children or achieving other goals. We can help you evaluate whether you should have a trust or trusts in your Will, which is called a testamentary trust, or if a Living Trust is more appropriate for your needs. Whether in a Will or a Living Trust, your plan can include marital trusts, such as “QTIP” trusts and credit shelter trusts, as well as trusts for children and Special Needs Trusts.
We also consult with our clients regarding ways to avoid probate, such as community property agreements, beneficiary designations, joint accounts and transfer on death deeds, where appropriate. These methods can save expense and stress in some situations, but can also undermine your estate plan, so we advise that they be used with caution.
Do I need a Will?
If you have assets, you should have a Will. It helps your family have clarity at a difficult time. It can also help save on taxes, give gifts to people and charities you care about, and make sure your loved ones are cared for. The process of getting your Will done should also mean you will have your Power of Attorney documents prepared. In these documents you choose who will make financial and health care decisions for you when you can’t, and in some ways they may even be more important than a Will. Your attorney might also suggest other documents to help make your plans effective, such as a Living Trust or a Community Property Agreement.
How can I protect my gift or bequest to my children?
Parents often hesitate to leave assets to a child if they are worried the child may someday lose half those assets in a divorce. A good solution is for parents to give those gifts in a trust that is clearly the separate property of the child. The child can even be trustee of the trust, if the parents believe that he or she understands the importance of keeping separate property separate.
What is a living will?
“Living will” is commonly understood as a person’s instructions for their medical treatment and care if they are no longer to express their intentions themselves. In Washington, such a document is called a Health Care Directive if it is prepared by attorneys. If it is prepared by a medical doctor, it’s called a POLST (Physician’s Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment).
What should I do after my spouse dies?
After a spouse dies, do not rush to transfer assets into your name, especially if you and your spouse have an estate plan, stepchildren, or assets worth more than about $1 million. First consult with an attorney to ensure the steps you take conform with your estate plan and don’t hurt your ability to make smart financial decisions in future years.