"Estate planning" in Washington refers to the decisions a person makes regarding what is to be done with their assets after their death, and the process of implementing those wishes.
Estate planning typically requires professional legal and financial advice, because of the complexity and importance of the issues involved. A poorly-executed estate plan can frequently 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 include things that might become relevant during life. Power of attorney is a big one. Power of attorney is an arrangement in which you give another person the ability to make decisions for you, if you become incapacitated. Additionally, effective estate planning can help reduce the effect of taxes and court fees on your final disposition to your chosen beneficiaries.
A skilled estate planner in Washington can make the process of planning your estate go much more smoothly, and maximize the chances of your wishes directly being carried out with legal force.
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 typically 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 concerning your medical care, to give instructions to your family and doctors in the event that you become incapacitated. While directly 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: What if you become incapacitated, and can't make your own decisions? It would be nice if somebody knew what you would want in a given situation, and, on top of that, had the legal authority to make that decision for you. Power of attorney lets you do precisely that, granting a person of your choice the ability to make certain decisions for you, in case you, for whatever reason, can't (you can, of course, control the scope of power that you grant).
Funeral Arrangements: What do you want done with your body after you die? Do you want to be cremated? How about buried? Or maybe you want to be cremated, and have your remains shot into space? Whatever your preference, you won't exactly be able to tell anyone when the time comes. Consequently, you should make your desires on this matter known well in advance. You also shouldn't make your will the only place where these instructions are contained, since it might not be read for weeks after your death, when it will probably be too late.
Do I Need a Washington Estates Lawyer?
A knowledgeable estates lawyer in Washington can make the estate planning process much easier. He or she can maximize the chances of your wishes being given effect. Moreover, a good and clear estate plan is far less likely to result in litigation in the future, since disputes of this nature are almost always the result of ambiguity.