Few people know what estate planning is, and even fewer understand why they should have an estate plan. Without an estate plan in place, your loved ones could be left dealing with a complex legal mess after you die. This could cause them unnecessary stress and financial hardship. An estate planning attorney can help you create a will, living trust, and other important documents that will ensure your wishes are carried out after you pass. They can also help you set up powers of attorney and healthcare directives to ensure your loved ones are able to assist you if you become incapacitated and can carry out your end-of-life decisions. This blog post will hopefully help further clarify what an estate planning attorney is and how they can help you.

What Is An Estate Planning Attorney?

Few people know what estate planning attorneys do. Ultimately, an estate planning attorney can help you plan for the distribution of your assets, name someone to administer your estate or trust and mitigate taxes upon death. During life, estate planning allows you to plan for an unforeseen incapacity or disability during your lifetime.

What Are Some Things an Estate Planning Attorney Can Do for You?

Customize Wills

Wills can be confusing and complex; that is where the help of an experienced estate planning attorney can be extremely beneficial. They have the know-how and experience when it comes to advising and drafting wills. By hiring an estate planning attorney to help you write your will, you can ensure that your wishes are carried out exactly how you want them and that your loved ones are taken care of financially and legally according to your wishes after you’re gone.

Most people don’t realize that there are risks associated with writing a will without an attorney. If you die without a will or with a poorly written will, your assets may not be distributed the way you want them to be. This could lead to family disputes and expensive legal battles. This is why procuring a will is so important. An attorney can help you create a will that accurately reflects your wishes, and that will hold up in court.

Designating Beneficiaries

When it comes to estate planning, there are a lot of important decisions to make. When someone dies, their estate goes through a legal process to determine who will inherit what. This legal process is referred to as probate. Assets that do not have a beneficiary designation or that are not jointly owned are referred to as “probate assets.” These types of assets require you to go through probate to transfer the assets to your beneficiaries.

On the other hand, assets that have beneficiary designations on them do not require probate. Examples of these types of assets include life insurance and any financial account where you name a payable on death beneficiary or a transfer on beneficiary. These types of assets are referred to as “non-probate assets.” Non-probate assets are administered outside of your will or trust and are essentially a contractual agreement with the respective financial institution. That institution agrees to distribute the funds held in that particular account to the individuals that you name. It is essential that the beneficiaries named on your non-probate assets are the individuals that you want to receive those assets to ensure that your estate plan is carried out.

An experienced estate planning attorney will discuss with you how you want your estate to be distributed when you die and will discuss with you how to name beneficiaries on your accounts in order to fulfill your estate planning wishes. Many institutions allow you to fill out forms that can be submitted online. Most banks will require that you come into the bank branch to update beneficiary designations.

Establishing Power of Attorney for Financial Decision-Making and Power of Attorney for Healthcare Decision-Making

No one knows what will happen during their lifetime, and it’s important to be prepared for any scenario. And if something happens and you’re unable to make decisions for yourself, who will? If you don’t have a power of attorney in place, your loved ones will have to go through the costly and time-consuming process of establishing guardianship. An estate attorney can help you establish a power of attorney so that you know your wishes will be carried out if something happens to you. There are two types of powers of attorney – a power of attorney for financial decision-making and a power of attorney for healthcare decision-making.

  1. Power of attorney for financial decision-making allows the appointed agent to act on behalf of the principal to manage their financial affairs.
  2. Power of attorney for healthcare decision-making authorizes the appointed agent to manage the principal’s healthcare decision-making and care acquisition. 

Using Trusts to Avoid Probate

A revocable living trust sometimes referred to as a will substitute, is often used to avoid probate. If you own real estate when you die and have a will (or have no estate planning documents), Washington law requires that your estate be administered through a court process known as probate. Since probate fees often exceed $5000 and the process itself usually takes 6-9 months to complete, clients choose to use a trust rather than a will. An experienced estate planning attorney will discuss with you the pros and cons of a will versus a trust so that you can make an informed decision that is best for your family.

Looking for an Estate Attorney In the Vancouver WA Area? Call Salmon Creek Law Offices!

Here at Salmon Creek Law Offices, we have a team of attorneys ready to assist you when you need legal representation. Our client-centered approach to providing outstanding legal services starts with your first call. Our experienced attorneys at Salmon Creek Law Offices will take the time to listen to you and advise you on your legal concerns. We provide legal representation in a friendly and personable manner with a focus on getting results. When counseling our clients, we take a preventative legal approach, which identifies and addresses potential legal concerns before they become lawsuits. This, in turn, protects and preserves the assets that our clients, and their businesses, have worked so hard for. In litigation, we are committed to achieving the best possible results by using an aggressive but practical approach. We earn the trust and confidence of our clients every day, case-by-case, client by client. At Salmon Creek Law Offices, relationships matter. Call us today!