What is Estate Planning?
A comprehensive estate plan covers much more than just the distribution of your assets at the end of your life. Specifically, a well-crafted estate plan can ensure that your wishes are upheld in the event you become incapacitated or are at the end of your life, as well as protect your loved ones from unnecessary tax complications involving their inheritance. One of our seasoned attorneys can help you set up a trust and develop an estate plan. Do not hesitate to speak with one of the Seattle estate lawyers on our team to learn more about your planning options.
Useful Estate Planning Tools
A last will and testament is the foundation of most estate plans in Seattle, but it is not the only tool at your disposal. For example, trusts often work hand-in-hand with wills. Other estate planning tools include:
- Cremation directives
- Burial directives
- Living wills
- Medical directives
- Powers of attorney (financial and medical)
- Advanced health care directives
A cremation directive form is one of the most important documents you will need to complete if you prefer to have your remains cremated once you pass away. The authorization form is a legal document that the person desirous of cremation must sign before death or direct their next of kin to sign after death. Cremation may concern burial requests as well.
Legal Requirements for Burial and Cremation Directives Under State Law
Revised Code of Washington §68.50.160 gives you broad power to control the disposition of your own remains after your passing. By expressing your final wishes in a written will, you can prevent other parties from overturning your decision after your death.
Setting a cremation or burial directive requires you to create a written document that identifies your preference for the manner in which and location where you would like to lay your body to rest after your death. This document must also be in writing and signed by the testator in the presence of another party known as a witness.
While these requirements may seem straightforward, errors in the drafting stages of a cremation or burial directive are common. Not to mention, a family member could challenge the terms of a funeral directive based on unclear or conflicting language. For these reasons, seeking the assistance of a Seattle-based lawyer may be vital for ensuring your remains are handled in accordance with your burial or cremation preferences.
Important Considerations for a Cremation or Burial Directive
There are several decisions to make when creating a cremation or burial directive. In addition to deciding whether you prefer burial or cremation, you must also determine where you would like your remains to be placed. For a burial, it could be a family plot purchased decades earlier.
For cremation, you can decide what will happen to your ashes and who will be responsible for carrying out those wishes. Some people choose to have their ashes spread in a specific place, while others ask that their ashes stay with their family. Regardless of which options sound most appealing to you, our team of dedicated attorneys can help ensure that your ideal cremation or burial wishes become a reality.
Last Will and Testament
A last will and testament (also referred to as a will) is one of the primary tools used in successful estate plans. A will tells your loved ones how to divide your property after your passing and can also name guardians for your children and identify your chosen final resting place.
The law surrounding last wills and testaments can be challenging to understand without qualified legal counsel, and the consequences for non-compliance could make a will unenforceable. One of the dedicated trusts and estates attorneys on our team can develop a legally enforceable last will and testament on your behalf. Working with our Seattle-based trust and estate lawyers can give you peace of mind about what will happen at the end of your life and after your passing.
The Importance of Having a Will
A will allows you to dictate how your belongings will be divided after your death and gives you a say in the care of your minor children and or pets. A valid last will and testament can give you the power to make these decisions during your lifetime.
Those who die without a will miss the opportunity to express and enforce their final wishes. Passing away without a last will and testament is known as "dying intestate." Intestacy requires probate court to distribute your property according to state law. That could result in unintended consequences for family members.
A will can also fund other estate planning tools such as trusts and ensure that a portion of your estate goes to a charity of your choice. A Seattle lawyer's guidance in creating a valid will cannot be understated, as you may not want to leave your assets and estate in the hands of a third-party.
Legal Requirements for a Last Will and Testament in Seattle
A will must satisfy several technical requirements before a court may recognize it as legally valid. For example, you (the creator) must be at least 18 years of age, be of sound mind, and understand the implications of the will you intend to create. A court could strike down a last will and testament created by someone who lacks the capacity to understand the implications of a will or faces coercion.
Furthermore, a will must be typed or handwritten and signed by the creator. If the individual creating the last will and testament cannot sign themselves, another person can sign for them in their presence and on their behalf. Either way, any signature on the will must be witnessed by at least two competent adults. The witnesses must either sign the last will and testament with the testator or sign an affidavit in the presence of a notary public stating that they witnessed the document.
A comprehensive will requires extensive research and legal knowledge. Creating a viable and enforceable will and testament can be made easier with a local lawyer's help. Our team of attorneys is ready to listen and help make your long-term goals a reality.
Trusts in Seattle
Trusts fall into two broad categories: inter-vivos trusts and testamentary trusts. An inter-vivos trust goes into effect while you are alive, while a testamentary trust only becomes enforceable after your passing. A trust and estate lawyer in your neighborhood can advise you on which options would best suit your needs.
The term inter-vivos means "during life" and goes into effect when the creator is still alive. An inter-vivos trust can either be revocable or irrevocable. A revocable trust can be altered or invalidated by its creator at any time during their life. Only a court order can alter or invalidate irrevocable trusts, making them less malleable than other options. Every type of trust has its advantages and disadvantages, especially with regard to tax consequences and the creditors' ability to reach trust assets.
Alternatively, a testamentary trust would become enforceable after your passing and is often funded by a "pour-over" clause in a will. This type of trust allows you to use your assets and property during your life and direct how others will use them following your death.
Updating an Estate Plan With a Lawyer's Help
Regardless of the estate planning tools you use, it is crucial to ensure that your plans stay up to date. Circumstances can change quickly and may impact your final wishes. For instance, a divorce or the birth of a new child could radically alter your plans for property distribution after your passing.
Failure to update an estate plan or trust beneficiary could result in your will being carried out in a way that goes against your final wishes, including unintended tax consequences. Fortunately, an attorney in the Seattle area can help you develop an appropriate trust and estate plan to uphold your wishes and ensure that they are updated regularly to reflect.
If you'd are interested in learning more about why you need an estate plan, sign up for our free webinar, with our lead estate planning attorney today!
How We Can Assist You
If you are considering estate planning services or are dealing with a loved one who has passed, it is important to retain the services of an experienced estate planning attorney to guide you with the necessary paperwork.
Our estate planning attorneys work exclusively on estate planning issues. We take a personalized approach to every client. We will meet with you to help you fully understand the law and what to expect. Our goal is to guide you through every document and step in our process.
If you would like to book a FREE estate planning consultation, contact us to book today Your family's future is our first priority.