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Understanding the Importance of Estate Planning 

‘You can’t take it with you’ is a phrase you have likely heard many times in your life. Although you accumulate property, money, and other assets, once you die, they are left here on earth. Since you can’t bring your riches along after death, you will want to make sure that you leave them to the people you love and cherish. The best way to do that is with a comprehensive estate plan. Your loved ones will thank you after your death for giving them a guide they can follow to disperse your money and treasured possessions. Estate planning is not just for celebrities or the rich and famous; everyone can benefit by putting an estate plan in place. 


What is Estate Planning?


Estate planning is the process of arranging the transfer of your property and assets to others after your death. Estate plans may include a variety of methods for transferring your wealth to others, such as wills and trusts. The plan may also designate a person to take over on your behalf if you are no longer able. In addition, an estate plan may allow you to give instructions for handling your healthcare issues. Estate planning is unique to each individual, and you can include all the items you need to ensure a smooth transition of property after your death. 


Why Estate Planning Is Important


Estate planning is essential to ensure that you take care of your loved ones after your death. You worked hard to obtain your assets, and you need to make certain that after you pass away, the people you love will get them. You do not want your money and property getting into the wrong hands. An estate plan gives you the opportunity to care for your beneficiaries in the way you prefer. 


One of the most important reasons for having an estate plan is to ensure that your assets are properly distributed after your death. A well-thought-out plan will prevent financial loss to your loved ones and make things less complicated for them. They won’t need to guess your intentions since the estate plan includes guidelines for how to handle these various aspects of your life. 


Some aspects of an estate plan deal with some matters that occur while you are still living. For instance, the plan may include a healthcare directive that gives instructions for your care if you become incapacitated. A plan also may name someone to take over your finances in the event that you cannot care for them on your own. 


An estate plan will help prevent disputes between your loved ones. The estate plan is a guide that your beneficiaries will utilize to distribute your assets after your death. Your estate plan will give your relatives the information they need as they follow your wishes and obtain their inheritances. This is a difficult time for your relatives, and an estate plan will make things easier and less stressful for them. 


If you die without a will, your assets will be distributed according to Washington law. This may not be in accordance with your wishes. The last thing you want is for your hard-earned property to be lost to the people you love the most. An estate plan utilizes tools that can help to reduce inheritance taxes so you can save your loved ones from overpaying. In some cases, an estate plan might prevent having to go through probate


Parts of an Estate Plan


Estate planning consists of some key elements that may or may not be necessary in your particular case. Some of these elements include:


Will


A will is also called a last will and testament. It is a document that states your wishes for the distribution of your property after your death. For a will to be valid in Washington, you must sign it in the presence of two witnesses who must also sign it or sign affidavits. A handwritten will is acceptable, but an oral will is not allowed.  


Trust


A trust is an arrangement where a party holds property or assets for a beneficiary. The trustee is the party who holds the trust. A trust may be revocable or irrevocable. A trust generally passes to the beneficiary upon the death of the grantor. A trust may offer some protection from probate and taxes. An experienced estate planning attorney will help you create a trust that is best suited to your needs. 


Power of Attorney


A power of attorney is a document that grants another person to legally act on your behalf. You designate the person, or agent, who will take care of your financial and other requirements if you are not able to do so. A durable power of attorney takes effect immediately when signed, while a springing power of attorney takes effect only when the person becomes incapacitated. 


Healthcare Directive


A medical or healthcare directive is a document that provides for the type of medical treatment and care you desire if you are unable to tell someone at the time. A healthcare directive is also sometimes called a living will. You can tailor the document to include specific instructions for the care you want for specific situations. A medical directive voices your wishes if you become incapacitated. 


What Happens if You Die Without a Will?


Washington, like other states, has intestacy laws in place that provide for what happens to property when a person dies without a will. If you die intestate, without a will, the law generally allows the distribution of your property to your closest living relatives, such as a spouse or children. When you pass away without a will, you will not be able to specifically provide for your loved ones, and your assets could end up going to someone you did not intend. It will also likely take longer for your assets to get to your loved ones if you do not have a will in place. 


Help With Estate Planning


Estate planning can be complex, and it will be helpful to seek legal guidance for the process. Your estate planning attorney will assist you in creating an estate plan that will adequately address all of your specific needs. A good estate plan will ensure that your loved ones will be taken care of and that your wishes will be properly carried out. To learn more about estate planning, contact us at View Ridge Family Law & Estate Planning at (206) 210-1562 to schedule a consultation. 



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