Estate Planning & Probate
We understand that every client’s estate distribution needs are unique. We provide tailored advice and guidance concerning how to best achieve a client’s objectives based on their estate disrtibution wishes. As estate planning also concerns asset preservation in the event of a healthcare crisis, we draft the right instruments that will protect clients and their families if such an event occurs.
As Bellevue and Kirkland Area Estate Planning Lawyers, We Offer Clients Experienced Counsel and Advice for All Estate Planning Needs
We provide Washington clients with experienced estate planning guidance concerning asset preservation and distribution, tax minimization, and healthcare and related needs in the event of incapacity. By understanding the needs of each client, we can provide the right instruments that will best accomplish their objectives.
Understanding Your Estate Planning Needs
Each person’s estate, family matters, and distribution wishes are unique. We meet with clients to learn about their circumstances and then develop an estate plan that will accomplish their objectives in a tax-efficient manner. Ultimately, we help clients achieve peace of mind knowing that their assets will be distributed in accordance with their wishes.
Wills and Trusts – Do I Need a Trust, or Is a Will Sufficient?
A will is the legal instrument that sets forth how a person’s property is to be transferred upon death. A trust is a legal agreement that concerns the ownership and management of property held for the benefit of specified individuals or other parties.
Because property held in trust is not owned by a person (but rather by the trust), trust property is not transferred by will upon a person’s death, and generally is not subject to probate. Instead, property held in a trust continues to be managed in accordance with the trust agreement. Because an individual may own property that has not been transferred into a trust, a will should always be executed.
Trusts can be particularly useful estate planning tools for those with large and complex estates, and those who wish to have property controlled by a trustee for the benefit of others after death. As an example, a spendthrift trust is a trust created for the benefit of another (often a minor child or grandchild) whereby the amounts that can be distributed to such person are limited until a later time (often a date at which the person attains a specified age).
Once we learn about the nature of a client’s estate and his or her distribution desires, we can advise whether a trust will be beneficial.
What Happens if I Die Without a Will?
When a person dies without a will, the person is said to die “intestate.” Washington and all other states have statutes that prescribe how property is to be transferred when a person dies intestate.
These statutes do not take into account the wishes of the decedent. As a result, some people may inherit assets despite the decedent’s wishes to the contrary, while others, whom the decedent favored, may inherit nothing.
Of particular concern are those who are involved in long-term (but not legally-recognized) relationships, who may inherit nothing if their partner dies. For these reasons, all adults should have a valid will.
Providing Guidance to Help Clients Resolve Difficult Family Issues
We help clients identify the complete nature of their estate so that distribution decisions can be made. Frequently, clients need to consider sensitive family issues and relationships in determining who will receive testamentary distributions. In our role as legal counsel, we help clients with these matters so that they can make the decisions that are right for them.
Medical Powers of Attorney and Living Trusts
Comprehensive estate planning involves more than determining property inheritance; it also requires planning to take into account how personal affairs will be managed and healthcare decisions made in the event of incapacity.
We assist in drafting powers of attorney, healthcare directives, and other instruments that may be necessary in the event of incapacitation. These instruments are important, as without them it may be necessary to petition the court for guardianship or conservatorship in order to manage the financial affairs, medical care, and lifestyle needs of an incapacitated person.
Guardianship and conservatorship are not ideal, as they involve time, legal fees, and ongoing court supervision over those who may be appointed as guardians or conservators. Conversely, when powers of attorney and medical directives are in effect, the provisions and authority set forth therein take effect immediately upon the specified event, the persons designated therein are entitled to make decisions concerning such matters, and usually no court involvement is necessary.
As Bellevue and Kirkland Area Probate Attorneys, We Assist and Provide Counsel to Personal Representatives in the Probate Process
In Washington, after a person dies, a person’s will is admitted to probate, and a personal representative is appointed by the court. If the decedent designated a personal representative in his or her will, such person will usually be appointed; if there is no will or a personal representative has not been designated, a family member, relative, or another having a close relationship to the decedent may seek such appointment.
Personal representatives have a wide range of duties, including accounting for, and taking measures to preserve, the assets of the estate, identifying and discharging from the estate all proper debts of the decedent, distributing assets in accordance with the decedent’s will or applicable law (if there is no will), and making final tax filings. We provide personal representatives with assistance and advice so they can fully discharge their fiduciary duties.
Often probate issues arise, such as how to handle assets that are not capable of division, such as if a family house is left to more than one person. When these unique matters arise, we provide advice about the options that may be available to the personal representative.