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Spokane Estate & Probate Lawyers / Blog / Estate Planning / The Complete Guide to Washington State Estate Planning

The Complete Guide to Washington State Estate Planning

washington state estate planning

You may have heard the phrase, “Nothing is certain except death and taxes.” With that in mind, w e should probably plan for both when it comes to Washington State Estate Planning.  

Estate planning doesn’t have to be a boring topic, and much of it can be pretty interesting once you start understanding the benefits. You have nothing to lose but many benefits to gain through solid estate planning – by securing all the assets you’ve worked hard to gain.

Modern research has established that  fewer than half of all American citizens have a will  & testament. Astonishingly, just about 1/3 of all adults with minor children under 18 have created a will or living trust for themselves. Don’t become a statistic! Secure your assets and protect your surviving family members by preparing your estate plan today.

Let’s Start With What Your Estate Is Comprised Of:

We’ll take a few steps back here to ensure we’re comprehending an estate’s actual definition. Fundamentally, your “estate” is how the legal system views the overall value of your net worth.

Your estate may include any of the following:

  • Investments
  • Bank Accounts
  • Cars and other vehicles
  • Houses and other real estate
  • Personal belongings
  • Life insurance

In a nutshell,  your estate  comprises everything you currently own and all your current debts. We’ll focus more on that part later. Now that you understand what an Estate is, we’ll move on to how you can create a plan for yours.

Your  estate plan  is assembled from several different legal documents. Each one of these documents serves an essential purpose. An estate plan can include everything from setting up a trust fund to designating a power of attorney.

The entire goal of estate planning is to save and secure all the essential assets you’ve worked hard to amass over time. Naturally, the objective is also to bring down the costs you’ll pay in taxes, legal expenditures, court fees, and many other types of expenses too.

Here are some of the more common Washington State estate planning documents:

Last Will and Testament

The most critical portion of your estate plan is your last will and testament. In this document, you specify in detail how your assets are divided, who will be the guardian of your children, and who is designated to carry out your wishes.

Please also understand that your last will and testament will only be relevant after death. It doesn’t offer any protection if you become physically or mentally incapacitated.

Living Will Document

If you’re in a condition where you’re unable to make decisions on your own, living will help establish your wishes. For instance, you may become hospitalized in a comatose state where your abilities are gravely limited. You could indicate these wishes within your living will if you strongly believe you should not receive resuscitation or life-sustaining care.

Power of Attorney

Most people prefer to appoint a trusted relative or close family member to make decisions on their behalf. This is known as power of attorney. Generally, you would name a spouse, family member, or close friend to address your affairs when you cannot do so.

Many distinct types of powers of attorney vary in scope, length, and circumstances. It’s significant to note that you can grant health care and financial power of attorney to several individuals if you’d like. You had better trust your power of attorney with your life!

Living Trusts

(Often Our Primary Recommendation)

living trust  is a legal document that places your assets into a trust during your lifetime. Upon your death, it is transferred to your designated beneficiaries. It is possible to create a living trust and a last will.

The most significant benefit of creating trust is that it will help  avoid the probate process . In short, a living trust can help protect your assets from being drained by court and legal costs. It also helps things run much more smoothly, as your beneficiaries can receive their inheritance faster and with less hassle.

Washington State Estate Planning Basics:

1 – No Will

If you die in Washington State without completing your will, the state will appoint an administrator to allocate your estate (your assets) according to Washington State succession laws. These laws give control of your assets to your “closest” living family or relatives. We highly recommend that if you care about what happens to your assets when you pass away —  and you should ! — make sure you do the prudent thing and  create a will !

2- Probate

Probate is a legal procedure for settling an estate of a person who has died. Luckily for you, the state of Washington has one of the easiest-to-understand probate structures in the country.

  • Your representative (as designated in your will) can act with complete authority and without court intervention in nearly all matters.
  • Attorney fees are not based on a percentage of the estate’s value.

Learn more about our  Probate services.

3- Taxes

Washington State does not maintain an  inheritance tax  but does collect an  Estate Tax.  This means that there are no taxes for the recipients of an estate, but it’s possible that there could be some tax on the decedent’s estate itself.

You should be aware of many exemptions and thresholds (among other things); you should discuss these with our Washington State estate planning attorneys as soon as possible. No estate tax is usually owed due to extensive tax planning within the decedent’s will. Just one of the many great reasons to plan your estate!

Learn more about  estate taxes in context of Washington State estate planning.

4- Law Changes

Washington State and even Federal Tax laws are constantly fluctuating. It would be best if you planned to review your estate plan periodically to make sure it’s up to date. We offer our Client Care Program, which makes this process even easier for our clients.

How Moulton Law Offices Can Help Your Family

It’s normal to feel overwhelmed when starting your Washington State estate planning. We find that most families really need a Law Firm you can trust to provide your family with financial security. We’ll help you navigate the planning process and ultimately help you make the best decisions for your family well into the future. At Moulton Law, our estate planning process may include the following:

  • Creating a Living Trust so that your wishes will be honored.
  • Updating your beneficiary designations as needed.
  • Reduce federal and state estate taxes through trusts and gifting.
  • We’ll help you consider both Federal and State estate taxes.

Our dedicated team of Estate Planning, Tax, & Probate Attorneys will ensure you gain clarity about your estate plan.  Call or Email us today to schedule an appointment to get all your questions answered about Washington State estate planning.

Understanding Washington State Estate Planning

Washington State estate planning decides how an individual’s assets will be preserved, managed, and distributed after death. When adequately executed, estate planning minimizes legal issues or tax costs associated with an individual’s death while ensuring the proper distribution of assets to beneficiaries and descendants responsible for managing them after death. It also considers managing an individual’s properties and financial obligations if incapacitated. The following is an overview of estate planning so you can make informed decisions about this critical aspect of long-term care strategy.

Who needs an estate plan? Anyone who has possessions and debt. If you’d like to control how your property is distributed upon your death, you need a plan. If you want to ensure that someone will handle your finances or health care after you cannot do so, then an estate plan is for you.

Any adult can complete a comprehensive estate plan, regardless of marital status or number of dependents. They are complex legal documents requiring information about family members, assets and debts, financial institutions, etc. Most people choose to work with an attorney when creating their plans.

How to Begin Washington State Estate Planning?

Estate planning isn’t just about creating a will or ensuring your estate passes to your beneficiaries. It’s about more than preparing for death—it also protects you and your family members during life. A will is a legal document that specifies how you would like your assets to be distributed upon death. If you become incapacitated, it directs someone to manage your affairs until you regain capacity.

A durable power of attorney gives an individual permission to make decisions on behalf of another person when they cannot do so independently. Other documents, including living wills, trusts, etc., are all designed to ensure that a person’s wishes are carried out upon death or disability.

How Do I Decide Who Will Manage My Assets After I Die?

One task within Washington State estate planning is the decision as to whom you want to handle your assets after you die. You can use a living trust, a will, or have a court decide for you; each option has advantages and disadvantages. A choice allows you to give away assets directly, while a living trust preserves privacy by hiding some assets from creditors. You may also wish to appoint an executor of your estate with legal authority over it. Your executor can help settle all debts and expenses upon your death and then distribute whatever’s left according to your wishes as laid out in your will or living trust.

An estate plan, or simply a will, is a legal document detailing how you want your assets to be distributed after your death. You must have an estate plan if you own property or have existing financial obligations, even if there isn’t much money involved. In addition to wills, estates often use trusts, generally used by wealthier individuals but are practical tools for any estate. Using both can help ensure your loved ones receive what you intended and reduce administrative hurdles and costs after death.

Checklist Of Items To Address with Your Estate Plan:

  • You can limit estate taxes by creating trust accounts in the names of your chosen beneficiaries.
  • You can establish a guardian for your living-dependent children.
  • Name an executor of your estate so they can oversee the terms of your will document.
  • You can create or update a beneficiary on life insurance, IRAs, and 401(k) accounts.
  • Estate planning can be used to set up funeral arrangements so your family doesn’t have to take on that burden.
  • Establish annual gifts to qualified charitable non-profit organizations, which can also reduce the size of your taxable estate.
  • Set up a Durable POA (power of attorney) to direct other assets and investments.

NOLO offers some additional resources to get acquainted with the Washington State estate planning process.

View a Detailed Version of our Washington State Estate Planning Checklist


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