What Makes a Basic Estate Plan?

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What Makes a Basic Estate Plan?
Written By: Josh Lowell ~ 6/14/2021

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

BLOGPOST_LastWillTestament06142021.jpgThe 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.

  1. Personal Representative – This individual is usually a spouse or child, but it can be anyone you trust to manage your affairs. After you pass, the Personal Representative will work with the attorney to enter your will in court, access your accounts, sell your home, and pay off your debts. This individual’s sole responsibility is to ensure your estate follows the plan laid out in your will.
  2. Beneficiary – Once again, usually a spouse or children, the beneficiary is the chosen induvial set to receive the assets described in the will. Be ready to outline real estate, tangible personal property, and financial personal property separately, if desired.
  3. Guardian/Trustee – If you have minor children when you pass away, you need a responsible individual capable of taking care of your kids. The guardian will act as the legal parent of the child and (most of the time the same person) the trustee will manage their money until they hit at least 18-years old (or older if desired).

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.

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