Irregardless of one's age or wealth, estate planning can ensure that your wishes are carried out and provide more ease and less stress to your loved ones when you pass away. Estate planning encompasses a range of objectives.
- How and whom to distribute assets to: Determining what will happen to your property, whether it will be distributed via a standard will, living trust, or another estate planning tool, as well as naming beneficiaries, is the primary function of estate planning for most.
- Determining if property is separate or community property: Not always as simple as it might seem, an attorney well-versed in Washington estate law is often essential in navigating whether property is separate or community in nature.
- The long-term needs of disabled individuals: Issues such as continuity of care, preserving means-tested benefits, how and when distributions will be made, and more can all be addressed through careful estate planning.
- Probate alternatives: Along with distribution of property, avoiding probate is what often motivates people to consult an estate attorney. Probate can be expensive and time-consuming and so circumventing it with well-thought-out estate planning is advisable when possible.
- Avoidance of estate taxes: Washington estate law and federal law mandates that estates above a certain financial threshold be taxed. If you have a substantial amount of property, consulting an estate attorney is key to reducing or avoiding potential estate taxes.
- Burial Request: Including directions for your final arrangements is also an important element of estate planning. You can make your wishes known regarding what will happen to your remains, the type of memorial you’d like to have, etc. This will help mitigate stress and confusion during a time of bereavement for your loved ones.
- Appointing a guardian for minor children: Having children is the impetus for many a visit to an estate attorney. It is through estate planning that you can name a guardian to care for young children and name a custodian or property manager to carry out your wishes regarding your children’s property.
- Developing a trust for future wishes: An estate attorney can help you determine if a trust is the right estate planning tool for you and will guide you through the steps to set one up and transfer ownership of your assets into it. Though sometimes more complex to set up than a standard will, trusts are powerful and flexible estate planning tools.
- Appointing a power of attorney: Contrary to what some believe, not all estate planning deals with what happens after your death. Along with assisting you in creating a will, an estate attorney can also guide you through the different powers of attorney, the steps to choosing who will make medical and/or financial decisions for you in the event that you are unable to, and how to enact power of attorney in accordance with Washington estate law.
Because each person has differing estate planning needs, it is best that you contact an estate attorney to discuss solutions that will fit your unique situation. As a Bellingham estate attorney, I am here to make estate planning straightforward and easy to understand for you and your loved ones.