Here are some of the common questions I receive from my clients. At Orchid Law, I’ll answer your questions about an estate plan and walk you through every step of the process.
What is a will?
A will is a legal document appointing a personal representative of your choosing to distribute your property to people/entities you specify and to pay your debts, after your death.
What is a trust?
Very simply put, a trust is a legal document that appoints a third-party (trustee) to manage trust assets (property) for the benefit of named individuals (beneficiaries). There are several types of trusts, and which type you use depends on what goals you have in mind when creating the trust. Common reasons are tax concerns, privacy concerns, and qualifying for long-term care financial planning.
Wills and trusts go hand-in-hand. A will informs the court where you, and to who, you want your assets to go, and directs the correct assets into a trust. The trust then manages those assets and distributes benefits to the people you want it to.
What happens if I die without a Will?
In Washington state, if you die without a will, you have died intestate. This means that the probate court will appoint an executor to distribute your property to your family, according to Washington intestacy law.
Some assets will pass automatically to persons named in the instrument. Life insurance policies and retirement accounts with named beneficiaries are one example. Jointly held bank accounts are another.
What is Washington’s Intestacy Law?
When you die without a will, or intestate, where your property goes will depend on what family members survive you. If you are married, and your spouse survives you, your spouse will receive 100% of your marital community property share, plus a share of any separate property. This share of separate property will depend upon whether you have children, whether the children are descendants of both parents, if your parents survive you, and if you have siblings surviving. Unmarried partners who are not in a registered domestic partnership, stepchildren and foster children who are not legally adopted will not receive any share of your estate.
Why do I need a will?
A will is your means of telling your loved ones and the state how you want your things to be managed after your death. Even if you have set up a trust, life insurance and retirement beneficiaries, and joint bank accounts, there will be property that falls outside of them. This property, without a will, will pass through intestacy law. If you have minor children, you need a will to appoint a guardian for them. You can also include your wishes regarding what happens to your body after your death, known as a disposition of remains.
What is a power of attorney?
Power of attorney is a legal document designating another person to “step into your shoes” and gives that person the authority to make financial and/or medical decisions in your place. These powers can take effect immediately or can “spring” into place upon your incapacity. These powers can range from limited to complete.