Estate planning is a personal and highly individualized matter, encompassing everything from planning your retirement to planning for after death. Proper planning with a good lawyer will allow you and your family to receive the full benefit of everything you have worked so hard to acquire. Unless you plan, your estate may be unnecessarily diminished if you become incapacitated during your lifetime. Without planning, the Washington State statutes will determine who receives your assets and administers your estate at your death and your estate may unnecessarily pay substantial estate taxes. Without a plan, your family business may not be set up in the most advantageous manner for you and, ultimately, the next generation of owners in your family.
Many issues determine which estate plan is best for you and your family. Who will manage assets for your minor children if you die prematurely? Who will handle your assets and make decisions about your medical care if you become disabled? How can you protect your family financially if you have to go into a nursing home? How can you protect your spouse and your children if you have a “blended” family? What type of business arrangement is best if you own a family business? Your estate plan should reflect your personal value system and unique circumstances. We are trained and experienced in all areas of estate planning, including, but not limited to:
- Last Will & Testament (Wills)
- Power of Attorney (POA`s)
- Advance Medical Care Directive. (i.e., Living Will)
- Community Property Agreement
Probate is a process that proves the Will of a deceased person is valid, so their property can in due course be retitled, or transferred, to beneficiaries of the Will. As with any legal proceeding, there are technical aspects to probate administration:
- Creditors must be notified and legal notices published.
- Executor(s) of the Will must be guided in how and when to distribute assets and how to take creditors’ rights into account.
- A Petition to appoint a personal representative/Executor will likely need to be filed and letters of administration or testamentary obtained.
- Homestead property, which follows its own set of unique rules in states like Florida, must be dealt with separately from other assets. Jointly-owned property passes automatically to the surviving joint owner separately from any Will, unless the equitable title is held as tenants-in-common.
- There are time factors involved in filing and objecting to claims against the estate.
- There may be a lawsuit pending over the decedent’s death or there may have been pending suits that are now continuing. There may be separate procedures required in contentious probate cases.
- Real estate or other property may need to be sold to effect correct distribution of assets pursuant to the Will or merely to pay debts.
- Estate taxes, gift taxes or inheritance taxes must be considered if the estate exceeds certain thresholds.
- Costs of the administration including ordinary taxation, such as income tax on interest and property taxation, is deducted from assets in the estate before distribution by the executor(s) of the Will.
- Other assets may simply need to be transferred from the deceased to his or her beneficiaries, such as life insurance. Other assets may have pay on death or transfer on death designations, which avoids probate