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Kent Estate Administration and Probate Law Blog

Estate planning strategies for keeping your money in the family

Many Kent residents have heard of the estate tax and probate court, two items that understandably have negative connotations. For some people, avoiding probate and minimizing their tax consequences are desirable things. After all, depending on the situation, probate can be a time-consuming and expensive process that puts a lot of stress and confusion on a person's heirs. However, there are things that can be done before a person dies to help avoid time in probate court.

First of all, beneficiaries need to be named on important accounts. Retirement funds, life insurance and bank accounts should have beneficiaries listed. If they're not listed, the account can go to probate.

What happens if one dies without an estate plan?

Although we have all heard many times that an estate plan is important, many Kent residents still do not have one. Some people die without having a will, a condition known as intestacy.

When a person dies without an estate plan or a will in place their property is passed to their heirs according to state law. This is known as intestate succession. Basically if a person does not have an estate plan the courts will make one for them. The courts will usually distribute the assets according to how most people would design their will.

Estate planning is important after a divorce

When Kent-area residents go through a divorce, it can be an emotionally trying time. There are so many things that need to be figured out and many are complicated. Although most people don't want to add anything to a divorce process, it is important to keep in mind estate planning matters.

Meeting with an estate planning attorney during a divorce process can be important. After a divorce a person's life completely changes. An estate planning attorney can help guide a person towards what makes sense in a divorce settlement in terms of an estate plan. An estate plan will most likely need to be updated with new beneficiaries. A health care proxy that lists a former spouse will need to be updated as well. When a former spouse is listed on a health care proxy it is revocable at the time of divorce but can be updated before the divorce is final. It is also important to update who can view a person's health care information.

If you're single you still need an estate plan

When many Kent area residents think of estate planning they think of families. Although estate planning is important for families, it is also important for singles. Single people often have different issues than married couples but that makes estate planning, including wills, just as important.

When a single person passes away, the default in state laws may distribute assets to family members that were not the deceased intention. With an estate plan, a person has control over how their assets should be divided and they are able to appoint someone to manage the estate. It is also important for single people to have a power of attorney. If a person becomes incapacitated and unable to make medical decisions, a power of attorney can make sure their wishes are followed. If a power of attorney is not designated court proceedings would need to take place and a guardian appointed.

When a sudden death occurs it is best to be prepared

No one in the Seattle area wants to spend time thinking about their death. But all of us will succumb to it in our lifetime, it is inevitable. For those who go suddenly, families are often left behind with serious issues that need to be cleaned up. Planning ahead can help survivors and heirs to cope with the loss and to know what your wishes are.

Sudden deaths happen frequently. People die in car accident every day. They suffer from heart attacks and other sudden medical issues. No one is immune from a sudden death as it can happen to anyone. When families are not prepared for a death there can be serious complications that arise.

What is a life estate?

For many families who go through the process of setting up an estate plan there can be many nuances to the different items that are needed to be taken care of. Last week we discussed how the family of Robin Williams has ended their legal battle. One of the settlements was for the spouse of Robin Williams and how she was granted a life estate of their home before it is passed to his heirs. So what is a life estate?

Many families choose a life estate for their property. A life estate is a way to let a person live in a property during their lifetime. When they die it passes to another person or even an organization. The person who is granted a life estate to remain in the property is referred to as the life tenant. There are several reasons why a family may want to have a life estate on their property.

Legal battle over Robin Williams' estate has ended

When a family member dies it is an emotionally situation for everyone involved. When the family member does not have important estate planning documents filed prior to their death their estate can be in limbo. With so many people today having multiple spouses, stepchildren, etc., estate administration can get tricky. This has been the case with the late Robin Williams' estate.

Robin Williams died in August 2014 which is when a family feud over his assets began. At the time of his death, his 3 children were set to inherit their father's estate. But a provision in his will allowed for something for his surviving spouse who he married in 2011. The children battled with his wife over Mr. Williams' personal possessions, finally reaching a settlement last week. His spouse argued that she did not have enough money to maintain their home. In the settlement she received enough support to continue living in the home until she dies at which time the home will go to the three children. She also received wedding gifts, clothing and a watch. The three children received the majority of their father's possessions including all of his awards.

Trusts and estate planning

Many Kent area residents may not want to think about estate planning and what happens to their assets after they die but it is an incredibly important topic. We all work really hard for our money, property and other assets so it is important to protect them after death. Trusts and estate planning are a way to help protect a person's fortune after they die.

There are many different kinds of trusts that can be included in an estate plan. A charitable trust can be set up to give money to a favorite charitable organization after death. A testamentary trust is a way to distribute assets to beneficiaries, usually through a surviving spouse. The assets can be distributed through various other trusts including credit shelter trusts, special needs trusts, marital trusts or trusts for minors. Last week we discussed a spendthrift trust and whether that would be a good option for a family with beneficiaries that may not be good with money or for other reasons.

What is a spendthrift trust?

Kent area residents who are thinking about their future may have estate planning as part of the equation. Estate planning is an important part of a family's asset protection. Kent residents work so hard to accumulate their wealth and it is important to make sure that it is distributed the way they want it to be upon their death. A spendthrift trust is one way to ensure their money is being used wisely.

A spendthrift trust is a trust set up to protect a beneficiary from spending all of the trust they receive. Many times the person setting up the trust may worry that the beneficiary will spend all of the money they receive quickly and recklessly. A spendthrift trust helps to ensure this doesn't happen. Spendthrift trusts can also protect a person's assets from the beneficiary's creditors.

How can an attorney help with estate planning?

Although many people in the Kent area believe that estate planning is beneficial only for the division of assets, when you die there are many other important situations that require a good estate plan. It is also necessary if a person becomes incapacitated and needs someone to take over their financial and/or health matters. It can also be beneficial to reduce an estate tax burden for the family.

An attorney who is skilled in estate planning can help a family with the four basic components of estate planning. These include property law, estate taxes, financial goals and legal documents.

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Jennifer C. Rydberg | Attorney at Law

Jennifer C. Rydberg
8407 S. 259th Street, Suite 203
Kent, WA 98030
Phone: 425-235-5535
Toll Free: 866-213-7556
Fax: 253-852-0400
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