"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.
The problems that estate planning raises are sometimes very perplexing. Without competent legal and financial advice, many problems can pop up, which can easily throw your entire plan into disarray, and cost your survivors a great deal of time, energy, and money.
In addition to post-death decisions, estate planning also concerns matters that might affect you during your life, such as granting power of attorney to a family member or trusted friend in case you become unable to make your own decisions regarding your finances or medical care. Furthermore, effective estate planning can minimize the impact that estate taxes and court fees will have on your final disposition to your loved ones.
A good Washington professional experienced in estate planning can make this process a great deal easier. They can also help ensure that your estate plan does not end up in court.
Common Features of Washington Estates
Will: Wills are a very important part of almost all estate plans. In simplest terms, it answers the question "who gets what after I die?" Generally, you can leave your property to anyone you wish. If you die without a will, your property will usually be given to your closest living relative (usually a spouse or child).
Living Will: Unlike ordinary wills, a living will contains instructions concerning a person's medical care. Some recent high-profile controversies have illustrated the importance of making a living will, even for younger people. In a living will, you can give your family members and doctors instructions about your desired medical care, in case you become incapacitated (comatose or brain-dead, for example) and can't tell them yourself. Some people say that they would not want to be kept alive by artificial means if they are in a vegetative state, and there's no chance of recovery. If this is you, that's definitely something to include in a living will. Of course, if you would prefer the opposite, being kept alive as long as is medically possible, you can put that in your living will, as well.
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 exactly 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: Some people, for religious and other reasons, have very specific wishes concerning the disposal of their remains after they die. Some want to be buried. Others, cremated. No matter what your preferences on this matter are, it's necessary that you inform your family of them far in advance. These instructions should be included in a document that is likely to be read before your death (such as a living will), or very shortly thereafter. This excludes a will, because it's often weeks after a person dies until their will is read.
Do I Need a Washington Estates Lawyer?
A good lawyer in Washington can make the process of estate planning as easy as it possibly can be. He or she can help ensure that your wishes are given effect, and minimize the chances of disputes between your survivors.