Estate planning is often the last thing on your mind. No one wants to think about their own inevitable end. Having a plan in place is one of the most important steps you can take to help your family transition after your passing. Depending on your amount and complication of your assets, a complex trust plan might be appropriate. For the average Washingtonian, a basic estate plan might suffice. Here are the four documents recommended for most situations:
Last Will and Testament
The most well known of the estate planning documents, the will is an integral part of helping disburse your estate after your passing. You can accomplish most of your post-death goals in your will, but in most scenarios, there are three most important pieces to the estate planning puzzle.
Power of Attorney
The Power of Attorney selects a chosen representative to act as the attorney-in-fact. This person might be selected only to manage your healthcare decisions, but most of the time a basic estate planning includes decision-making for healthcare and property rights. In essence, the Power of Attorney holds that if you are incapable of making decisions for yourself, your chosen representative will have the ability to sign their name on your behalf to get appropriate healthcare, open and close bank accounts, file lawsuits, and many other directives to ensure your life moves forward without interruption.
Living Will / Advanced Healthcare Directive
If you begin to suffer a coma or another medical condition where you are unable to make decisions on your own and you are being kept alive by life support, the living will might kick into play. By signing the advanced healthcare directive, now, you are choosing to have medical providers remove your life support in this niche situation to allow you to pass away naturally.
Community Property Agreement
For married spouses, the Community Property Agreement may be an invaluable tool, or it might be avoided altogether. Washington is a community property state, which means that most assets – with a few exceptions – that are acquired during the marriage are owned jointly by the marital community. Assets acquired before marriage, by gift, by bequest, or often by personal injury settlement are typically considered separate assets. The Community Property Agreement alters the characterization of the separate assets into community property to ensure a smooth transition after your passing.
Washington estate planning does not have to be complicated, but one wrong move or missed signature may result in catastrophic failure of your stated desires. Estate planning attorneys know the ins and outs of these documents and can help you understand your rights and what is best for your family. The experienced lawyers at the law offices of Magnuson Lowell, P.S. are happy to provide you with the information you need to make informed end-of-life decisions.