Estate planning involves the drafting of legal documents to protect your finances, your person, and your estate in times of crisis. This process is incredibly important to ensure that your loved ones are not left in a difficult situation upon your death or incapacity. Estate planning is like insurance. You pay a premium up-front to ensure you and your family are protected when certain circumstances arise. Discussing death and incompetency is not pleasant and many put off this task out of pure discomfort.
According to a survey by Caring.com, less than half of above 55-years old will have estate planning documents in 2020. That number is halved for those between 35 and 54-years old. The reasons for this delay are varied and worrisome.
Most people just have not had the time to think about or plan for their future. Anecdotally, many of my clients just do not want to think about their death. This puts your loved ones in the awkward position of guessing your wishes and forcing them to involve the courts more heavily, which is both time consuming and expensive.
Knowledge is half the battle. Here is some basic information to help place you on the proper path to success:
This is the most critical piece of your estate plan. You are able to outline your wishes and desires for the distribution of your assets. Parents will have the opportunity to outline guardians for their young children. Testamentary trusts can be set up to help control allocation of assets. The will can even describe plans for distribution of real estate, personal property, and cash. This document is only relevant after you die, and it can only be executed while you are alive and competent. Putting it off until the last minute is a major gamble.
End of life care decisions are hard enough. Forcing your loved ones to choose your end of life treatment decisions may be traumatizing. A Living Will helps establish your wishes when you are hospitalized, in a vegetative or comatose state, and unable to direct the physicians yourself. This might be the termination of list-sustaining measures or establishing specific guidelines to help your family cope.
The attorney in fact is a chosen representative that is trusted to make financial, health care or other decisions if you are incapable of making those decisions on your own. The power of attorney can be drafted specifically to suit your needs, so you should speak with your attorney about your goals.
Washington is a community property state, which means that assets and debts acquired during the marriage are generally considered community owned regardless of title. A community property agreement is a post-nuptial financial agreement that ensures that all property owned by either party is a community asset. In many cases, this agreement can help minimize or avoid the probate process.
Estate planning is overwhelming and full of emotion. No one wants to think about death or end of life care. Preparing these documents will create a sense of peace after completion knowing that – if something happens to you – your family will have a template for success. Importantly, having a proper plan ensures that court and lawyer involvement is minimal after your passing, which will allow your family to focus on the bigger picture.
The Law Offices of Magnuson Lowell, P.S. will help you navigate this difficult subject to help protect you and your family. Our qualified attorneys will help you navigate complex decisions so that you can feel secure for the future. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.