Estate Planning includes the drafting of crucial documents such as wills, powers of attorney, and healthcare directives to protect your loved ones in the event of serious illness and death. As part of your planning, you will need to select friends and family to fulfill certain roles. It is important to understand how these roles intersect and why they are needed for your basic estate planning.
So, what kinds of people do you need to consider for your estate planning?
More formally known as the executor or executrix, the Personal Representative is nominated to manage your estate after you pass away. Specifically, the Personal Representative will work by themselves or with an attorney to enter your last will and testament into probate. Once formally appointed, the Personal Representative will transfer real property, personal property, and financial assets to the beneficiaries as described in the will document. Once all the property has been disbursed, the Personal Representative will close the probate.
Most simply, the beneficiary is the individual selected to receive your asset by way of probate transfer. You may select a single beneficiary or multiple beneficiaries. You may choose equal shares or disproportionate shares. The choice is up to you, and you should work with your estate planning attorney to properly reflect your wishes in your will. Most commonly, the beneficiaries will receive a portion (or all) of the entire estate, but you can also split up the estate by asset or type of asset. For example, you may want specific beneficiaries to receive your real estate but different beneficiaries to receive your cash holdings. These distinctions should be outlined in your will if desired.
In the event you have minor children at the time you pass away, your children will most likely be cared for by their other parent. If the other parent is unavailable or deceased, you will often choose a guardian in your will to take care of your minor kids in that event. The guardian is not necessarily in charge of the children’s financial assets. Be sure to work with your attorney to choose whether the guardian, the personal representative, or a separate trustee should oversee the kids’ money until they reach a certain age.
Commonly, the spouse is the primary Personal Representative and Beneficiary of the estate. This makes sense since spouses will typically share everything in marriage anyways. This doesn’t have to be the case if there are separate property assets owned by the deceased party but is nonetheless the most common way of handling estate planning. If you are single or widowed, adult children are typically chosen next as Personal Representative’s to help with probate if needed. Whether they’re adults or not, children also tend to be the secondary beneficiaries as back-up to the spouse. In the even there are no spouses or children, you should work with your attorney and family to choose responsible individuals to take part in your estate plan and take your assets upon your death.
There is no requirement that you retain counsel to draft your estate planning documents for you. However, even with the help of online programs, there are substantial perils in drafting your own documents. Failure to follow some of the nuanced rules of Washington state estate planning, and your documents may be worth the paper they’re printed on and nothing more. Our experienced estate planning attorneys at the law offices of Magnuson Lowell PS are ready and willing to help you with basic will preparation. Call today for a free case evaluation!