Estate Planning Attorney
Trent Kunz of Salmon Creek Law Offices has been an Estate Planning Attorney, in Vancouver, WA for 20 years. Estate planning allows you to plan for the distribution of your assets, name someone to administer your estate or trust and to mitigate taxes upon death. During life, estate planning allows you to plan for an unforeseen incapacity or disability during your lifetime.
The documents used to distribute assets upon death and to name a successor trustee or a personal representative (executor) include either a Revocable Living Trust or a Will, respectively. Revocable living trusts allow the creators of the trust to avoid probate, while a will requires probate for asset distribution.
Do I Need a Will or a Revocable Living Trust?
The documents used to distribute assets upon death are either a Revocable Living Trust or a Will. Keep in mind that if you die with a will and your own real estate or other assets that would be distributed under the terms of the will, your state would be required to go through probate. In Washington, probate is a court process that is used to determine whether a decedent has a valid will, officially appoint the personal representative (executor) named in the will, and authorize the personal representative to act on behalf of the decedent. During the probate process, the personal representative is responsible to pay all of the decedent’s creditors, preserve and protect the estate assets, and ultimately distribute the decedent’s belongings according to the terms of the will. Probate generally takes between six and nine months to complete. Probate fees vary greatly depending on the complexity of the assets in the estate and whether other issues, including family disagreements, arise. Probate is a public process and the will, which includes the naming of your beneficiaries and the distribution of your assets, is available for public review.
The alternative to a will, and potentially being required to go through the probate process, is a revocable living trust often referred to as a will alternative. Revocable living trusts allow the creators of the trust (trustors) to name a successor trustee who, like an executor in a will, manages and distributes the trust assets after the creators of the trust die. Many people use revocable living trusts to avoid probate. By avoiding probate with a trust, the expense, timeframe and public nature of the probate process are avoided. However, there are cons associated with using a revocable living trust versus using a will. To make proper use of a revocable trust, it is necessary to ensure that titled assets, including real estate, investment accounts, bank accounts, etc. are properly titled in the trustor, where applicable, that the transfer on death beneficiary or payable on death beneficiary on accounts name the trust as the beneficiary.
We will discuss with you the pros and cons of preparing a will versus a trust during our consultation and, depending on your goals, which document would best fit your particular family situation.
What is a Power of Attorney?
The document used to prepare for unforeseen disability or incapacity during lifetime is a Power of Attorney. There are generally two types of power of attorney. A power of attorney for financial decision-making allows the appointed agent to act on behalf of the principal to manage their financial affairs. A power of attorney for healthcare decision-making authorizes the appointed agent to manage the principal’s healthcare decision-making and care acquisition. A spouse, family member or trusted friend can act as a power of attorney, as can professional fiduciaries. Salmon Creek Law Offices is here to provide the information necessary for you to make informed decisions about your estate planning that is best for you and your family.
A typical estate plan also includes a health-care directive, also known as an advance directive or living will. The health-care directive is a written statement of your intent to refuse life-sustaining procedures if you are in a coma with no chance of recovery or have a terminal condition.