Estate Planning Guide

Updated: Oct 14

Things to think about when making your estate plans

Why make my estate plans now?

Making estate plans seems like a daunting task, and for good reason.We get anxious about going to the dentist, so why would an appointment to discuss what happens after our funeral being anything less than disconcerting? And with a lawyer on top of it? Sheesh! No thanks, I'll go back to enjoying my life while I still have it.

It doesn't have to be like that. Like a good dentist, a good lawyer will make you feel comfortable as soon as you sit down, and add a sense of relief as you walk out. This isn't a sad meeting, it's a happy meeting! You're availing yourself of one of the many benefits of civilization: a system that will guard your valuables, and make sure they are transferred the way you intended. When you finish your estate plans, you should toast yourself, because you just made life easier for those you love, in the event of your passing.

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Plan Your Estate With A WA Attorney

First things first.

The first thing you need to think about is, who can I trust with my will? The probate court doesn't hold on to your will for you. Therefore, you'll need to keep it in a safe place, and make sure someone you trust knows where it is. This can be more than one person, but you'll at least need your personal representative to know. Personal representative is the term many states now use instead of "executor." This is a person named in the will, who is put in charge of submitting the will to the probate court upon death, and is responsible for distributing property to the heirs. Like with other aspects of the will, it's a good idea to have at least one alternative in mind, in case the primary choice is unwilling or unable to serve as the personal representative when the time comes.

Is it hard to make a will?

No. In the State of Washington, a person making the will must sign in front of two witnesses, and those two witnesses must sign the will. A will in Washington is valid even if it is not notarized. However, having it notarized will speed up the process slightly, as a notarized will is considered "self-proving" in Washington, which means it's not necessary for the court to contact the witnesses before accepting the will as valid.

Is a will all I need?

It's a good idea to create at least two other documents when planning your estate: a power of attorney and a living will.

A power of attorney is a document that makes someone else, someone you trust, an agent of yours for the purpose of doing things on your behalf. This can be as broad or as limited as you want. For instance, it could be limited to accessing one bank account for a specific purpose. Additionally, it can take effect immediately, or it can be a power that only takes effect once you become incapacitated for some reason.

A living will is a document that also appoints an agent to act on your behalf, but specifically as it relates to life-sustaining treatment decisions when you're incapacitated. Similarly, a healthcare power of attorney allows someone to make decisions for you, but this can be for a broader range of healthcare decisions, and may even authorize them to access medical records, etc., while you're still alive and of sound mind.

Is it a good idea to have all of these done at the same time?

Absolutely. Why? It will save time and money, and will add to that sense of relief you should feel when you're finished. We can discuss everything we need to about your assets, debts, heirs, property, healthcare decisions, etc., in one meeting, in person, over the phone, or virtually. That saves time, obviously, but it also saves money because most of the information needed for all estate planning documents, can be gathered at the same time.

The Washington State Bar Association has a great information sheet available with additional, helpful information to consider as you think about making a will.

If you have more legal questions about the estate planning, wills, powers of attorney, healthcare directives, or living wills, contact In-house | On-site to speak with a Vancouver, Washington attorney with knowledge of Washington estate laws.

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