Estate Planning and Probate
Is your plan for who will inherit your property after your death and appoint someone to take action on your behalf
A will is your plan for who will handle issues arising from your death and who will inherit your property. If you do not make a will, the state has made a default will for you, called the intestacy laws.
A power of attorney appoints someone to take action on your behalf while you are still alive. A variety of powers can be granted to that person, from cashing checks and selling real estate to refusing inheritances, making gifts of your property, and changing your own estate plans.
You can grant the power effective immediately on the date you sign the document, or delay its effective date until two doctors certify you cannot manage your own affairs. You can now designate a health care decision maker for your minor children. The point of a power of attorney is to avoid having a court-appointed guardian in the event of your incompetence.
A health care power of attorney appoints someone to make decisions granting or withholding medical care if you are not able to make those decisions. You can now designate who you do not want to get medical information.
A directive to physicians (living will) is a statement of your philosophy about life support.
A community property agreement is a contract between spouses or registered domestic partners which leaves all property to the survivor without a probate, and in some cases converts all property to community property.
A probate is a court-administered procedure to identify the correct will if any, and the heirs, gather the deceased's property, pay the bills, and distribute the deceased's estate to the appropriate recipients.
Whether probate is necessary depends on the type (real or personal), nature (joint or sole ownership), and amount of property owned by the deceased at the time of death. Community property agreements usually do away with the need for probate.
Washington is a community property state. This does not mean the surviving spouse or registered domestic partner will necessarily inherit all the property. The state's default will not be what you want, especially if you have a significant other, a second marriage, special gifts for particular people, a need for tax planning to avoid inheritance taxes, dependents who receive state financial assistance, or disabled children who require special consideration.
What to bring to your lawyer:
A list of ALL your children with their complete names.
A list of ALL your property, its value and location and whether there are joint owners. Include insurance, investments, retirements, real estate in other states. Make a list of your indebtedness. Your estate plan will only work for you if your attorney has all the information about your property and debts.
An idea of who should receive what property.
A backup plan in case one of your heirs dies before you.
A person who you want to handle the estate issues upon your death.