The Answers You Need To Make Solid Decisions
At Bryant Law PLLC, I first get to know you and your family. Every family is unique, with its own dynamics and goals. This is why every estate plan I create is tailored to the individual or the family it serves. In my years of helping people plan for the future, I have been asked many questions. Here are just a few of the more common inquiries and their answers.
Do I need a will?
No one is required by law to have a will but it is certainly a good idea. Why? Because a will lets your loved ones know what you want to happen. It can designate someone to make certain decisions for you in a crisis (a financial POA or a health care proxy). You can put down in writing who should be the guardian of your minor children. A will communicates to whom your possessions should go. Estate planning tools such as a will can take an incredible burden off the family’s shoulders.
I’m young without children; why should I have an estate plan?
It can be even more important for single individuals to have an estate plan because there is no built-in person who is designated to make decisions on your behalf if you are unable. What do you want to happen if you are in a vegetative state? Who should make decisions about procedures if you are unable to?
If you designate a health care proxy in your will then your family and your doctors know who to turn to, or more importantly, not turn to. Without a will or POA, the court may nominate someone to be your decision maker who you do not get along with, or who does not share your values. A will provides certainty for your family (parents and siblings) and friends, should something happen to you.
What is a trust?
A trust is a way to protect your assets and ensure that those assets are distributed according to your wishes. A trust will save time and reduce paperwork, and-when properly funded-avoid lengthy and costly probate proceedings. Trusts can also work to avoid or reduce the taxes that are paid on your estate assets (such as estate or “death” taxes).
The two basic types of trusts are revocable and irrevocable trusts. A revocable living trust is the foundation of any trust-based estate plan. A special needs trust can be established to ensure that a child who has special needs is taken care of if both parents die or are incapacitated. Other types of trusts include:
- Charitable trust
- Spendthrift trust
- Tax bypass trust
- Credit shelter trust
Trusts are more complex than wills and typically do require the assistance of an estate planning attorney to set up.
What are advance directives?
These are the documents that you create while you are still of sound mind to tell your family and medical providers what you want to happen in different contingencies. For example, a living will can direct your family and physician what to do if you are permanently in a coma or have a permanent terminal condition. You can also designate a person whom you choose to handle your finances (financial power of attorney/POA) and make medical decisions for you (health care proxy).
What is probate?
In Washington, probate is a process that happens after a person dies. It is a court-supervised process to inventory and distribute the assets of the deceased. Superior courts handle probate. Not every estate has to go through probate. Estates that have a properly funded trust or if all assets have a designated beneficiary (such as life insurance or retirement accounts) may be able to bypass this process. It is possible, but more difficult to bypass probate with only a will.
What is intestate succession?
When someone dies without leaving a will, it is said they died “intestate.” In a will, a person can leave their assets to whomever they choose. Succession refers to “who gets what” in accordance with the law. When someone dies without a will, then Washington state law will be used to determine “who gets what.” Typically, it goes in this order: the surviving spouse, the children, parents, siblings, grandchildren, and nieces and nephews.
Plan For The Unexpected So No One Has To Guess
It can feel overwhelming to consider your own death, but it is inevitable. So, the best defense we have is to plan and plan well. At Bryant Law PLLC, I will work with you to make the process as clear, solid and painless as possible. Some people find they enjoy the estate planning process because it gives them a sense of agency. It is also a big relief to most people to have everything in order.
I am estate planning attorney Ann Bryant. I work with people and families of all kinds to create plans that work for them. To arrange a complimentary initial meeting, call my Seattle, Washington, office at 206-487-1642. You can also reach me via my online inquiry form or schedule a meeting with me directly on my calendar page.