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What is a Will and why do I need one?

Posted by Judy Nakashima Shoji | Mar 03, 2020 | 0 Comments

What is a Will and why do I need one?

It is often difficult for people to think about death, and understandably so, but in order to ensure that your loved ones are cared for after you pass away, it is important to consider drafting a will.  A will is a written document, that designates guardians for minor children, names a personal representative to handle the distribution of the estate, and provides instructions for the distribution of money, assets and property. If you die without a will, those wishes may not be followed.

Many people wonder if they really need a will. They may think that they don't have enough assets to bother with a will. However, a will is a good idea for just about everyone.

What Happens If I Don't Have a Will in Washington?  If you die intestate—that is, without a will—the state oversees the dispensation of your assets, which it will typically distribute according to a set formula. (RCW 11.04.015)

Because of the elective-share and community property provisions mentioned above, the formula often results in half of your estate going to your spouse and the other half going to your children. Such a scenario sometimes results in the sale of the family home or other assets, which can negatively affecting a surviving spouse who may have been counting on the bulk of your assets to maintain his or her standard of living.

Further complications may ensue if your children are minors.  With a will you can name the person whom you feel most comfortable serving as your child's guardian.  Without a will, the court will appoint a guardian for you. 

Therefore, if you die without a will in Washington, it is highly likely that the court will appoint a guardian for your children who you may not agree with and that your estate will be distributed in a manner you would not have approved of. 

About the Author

Judy Nakashima Shoji

Judy prides herself on being approachable, down to earth and willing to answer any questions hr clients may have. She is a Seattle native. She attended the University of Washington, Tokyo University and Seattle University School of Law. She was a legal intern in the Civil Division of the Seattle City Attorney's Office and at Yasuda Fire and Marine Insurance Company located in Shinjuku, Japan. Judy advises clients in all aspects of estate planning, probate and adoptions. She also serves as a Title 11 court appointed investigator in guardianship cases for King County Superior Court. She cannot think of any areas in which she would rather practice. She invests in learning about her client's whole story which creates a friendly environment in which she can provide more effective assistance. Her goal is for her estate planning clients to walk away with a customized, detailed, realistic, and clear estate plan which will accomplish their wishes. Estate planning can be uncomfortable and confusing and her goal is to explain complicated legal options in a way that is easy to understand and clear. Her desire is to provide peace of mind and clarity for her clients while also giving them the information necessary to make well informed decision. Judy has been a member of the Elder Law and Real Property and Trust sections of the Washington State Bar Association and King County Bar Association. She has been a volunteer attorney with the King County Bar Association Neighborhood Clinic and Pro Bono Services for the past 14 years where she was recognized as volunteer of the month in October 2014. Judy is married with three children. Outside of work she enjoys traveling to sunny locations, exercising (HIIT and barbell classes keep her grounded) and spending time with the people (and animals) she loves.

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