In Washington, "estate planning" refers to all of the decisions affecting how a person's property is going to be disposed of after their death, as well as the procedure of implementing those decisions when the time comes.
Estate planning usually requires professional legal and financial advice, because of the complexity and importance of the issues involved. A poorly-executed estate plan can often end with survivors suing each other, and prevent your intentions from being effectuated.
In addition to deciding what to do with your assets after your death, your estate plan should also contain things that might become relevant during life. Power of attorney is a big one. Power of attorney is an arrangement in which you provide another person the ability to make decisions for you, if you become incapacitated. Also, effective estate planning can help reduce the effect of taxes and court fees on your final disposition to your chosen beneficiaries.
If you want to maximize the odds that your wishes will be followed after your death, you should do everything you can to make them legally binding. While this is not always possible, a Washington attorney will be able to make sure that, where it is permitted, it is done.
Common Features of Washington Estates
Will: A will is often the central component of an estate plan. It is a legal document which says what is to be done with a person's assets after they die. It usually involves giving money and property to the testator's close family members, friends, and sometimes charitable organizations.
Living Will: This is a document which articulates your wishes regarding your medical care, to give instructions to your family and doctors in the event that you become incapacitated. While actually consulting it will hopefully never be necessary, one never knows - unexpected illnesses and injuries can happen to anyone, at any time. While making a living will might require a person to acknowledge the existence of some unpleasant possibilities, it can end up saving their loved ones a great deal of grief and uncertainty.
Power of Attorney: Power of attorney is the permission to make binding decisions for another person, when that person becomes unable to make or express their own decisions. You can grant power of attorney to anyone you want, but, for obvious reasons, you should only grant it to somebody you trust, and discuss your exact wishes with them, in case they actually have to make a decision for you.
Funeral Arrangements: You should make it very clear to the individuals handling your funeral what type of funeral you want, and what you want done with your body. You should not put these instructions in your will, because wills are often not read until days or weeks after the testator dies, by which point it may be too late to give their wishes on this subject effect.
Do I Need a Washington Estates Lawyer?
A flawed estate plan in Washington can result in those affected by it being confused as to your intent, which can then lead to disputes between them. A reputable attorney can often avoid this confusion by ensuring that there is as little ambiguity as possible in your will and other related documents.