I’m not married. I don’t have children. I’m not a millionaire. Why would I need an estate plan?
Estate planning isn’t just about writing a Will. It’s about controlling and managing your assets and decisions now so that your wishes can be carried out if you become incapacitated or die. If you pass away without an estate plan, the laws of the state take over and your loved ones have to sort it out. Careful planning now can avoid disputes later and help your loved ones cope with their loss. Sure, proper planning can be especially important for high-net worth individuals and business owners whose estates are large enough to be subject to changing federal and state estate taxes. But, the term “estate planning” encompasses much more – from who’s going to have control over your Facebook page to who’s going to take care of your dog.
I just had a baby, I’m young and don’t have much, so why do I need to think about an estate plan?
You already know the greatest responsibility you have is to your child. Creating a Will is a way for you to provide basic protections to your child if something should happen to you. You can select a guardian to care for your children until they are 18. Since children under age 18 cannot inherit assets outright, you can set up a simple Trust to hold the assets for your children’s benefit. You can select a Trustee who will manage your children’s assets and make distributions to each child.
We are busy parents and it’s hard enough for us to get together for a date night. Do we need to come in together?
It’s probably a good idea, just to make sure that you’re both hearing the same information at the same time. We can complete a lot of work over the phone and via email. But, there really is no substitute for a face to face meeting. We meet with clients in our Bellevue-Redmond office and in Seattle by appointment only.
I’m not sure when I’ll be able to come in to see you. Is there anything I can do right now?
Absolutely. Talk to your loved ones. If you’re married, talk to your spouse about who you would trust to raise your child. Think about who would be able to provide your child the quality of care. Keep in mind that your child’s needs and your personal parenting philosophy may grow and change. Also, compile a list of your assets. You will want to update beneficiary designations on any insurance policies, retirement accounts, stock accounts, bank accounts and annuities. It’s best to do this along with your Will.
I have an old Will. Do I need to change it?
Maybe. Some say an estate plan should be updated at least every seven years. But, it’s also a good idea to update your Will if you’ve had any recent changes in your life. For example, have you experienced any major changes in your financial circumstances? Have you recently moved to the state of Washington? Have you recently welcomed a new addition to your family? Have you recently changed your marital status?
I’m married with children. If I die without a Will, won’t the other parent just get custody?
Yes, but what if you both are in a fatal accident together? No one wants to think about it, but it does happen. A Will would give you the ability to appoint the guardians who will take care of your child in the tragic instance that you both die.
Probate is the state legal process where the court determines (1) whether a Will is valid, (2) the value of the assets to be distributed, and (3) whether there are any valid debts or claims against an estate.
I don’t own a home, so my loved ones won’t have to deal with a probate when I die, right?
It depends. Retirement accounts and life insurance proceeds generally pass outside of probate. These assets pass by beneficiary designation. But, it’s important that the beneficiary designations are consistent with your Will. Also, if you own a home outside the state of Washington, you will want to plan accordingly.
I’m married with children, but I’m of modest means. Why do I need a Trust?
Chances are, you have some property that you’d like to pass on your children. Minor children cannot inherit property outright in Washington. So, in your Will, you will want to include a Trust that is Testamentary. That means the Trust springs into effect only after your death. The Trust is a legal relationship where your property would be transferred to a trustworthy adult (referred to as a Trustee) and managed by that same adult for the benefit of your child. If you don’t have a Will, the court will choose someone to manage your assets for you.
My kids are grown. Why do I need a Trust?
As a result of current economic realities, many parents are finding their adult children moving back home after those adult children have completed their schooling. Just because your child can vote may not give you confidence that your child is likely to make the most prudent financial decisions while grieving the loss of a parent. Adult child Trusts can regulate the flow of money to your adult child. If you choose to include an adult child Trust, it’s important you choose a Trustee who can handle the role of being the financial gatekeeper of your adult child’s money.
If you have further questions about estate planning or want to arrange a confidential consultation , please contact us today. We have offices in Seattle and Bellevue-Redmond and can meet with you in one or both of those locations as needed. We look forward to meeting you and helping you achieve the estate planning solutions you seek.