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Kent Estate Administration and Probate Law Blog

Simple, common mistakes to avoid in estate planning

Washington residents care about their loved ones, and making sure that one's estate is in order is a crucial element of making sure loved ones are helped cared for after death. However, estate planning can be a complex experience and there are some mistakes that should be avoided.

When choosing the person to implement an estate plan as an executor or trustee, a common instinct can be to default to certain people that seemingly make sense such as the oldest child or surviving spouse. Those should not be the default choices, however. Taking time to choose the correct person -- someone who is honest and completely trustworthy -- should trump any familial notion.

End-of-life planning is useful and important at any life stage

The end of life and death is not commonly something that anyone likes to talk about but because of advances in medical technology, and the ability to prolong life, it is important that individuals focus on long-term care planning and make their wishes for later in life, or end-of-life, known. The importance of protecting loved ones can be two-fold as individuals prepare for end-of life circumstances and situations, as well as those following the end of their lives.

Advance directives make it possible for individuals to express how they wish the end-of life period to transpire for them. An advance directive includes a durable power of attorney for health care and a living will. As part of an advance directive, a decision-maker will be named for circumstances when the individual is unable to make decisions for themselves. This can include decisions related to medical needs and medical care. The living will enumerates choices and decisions that may need to be made about healthcare during the end-of-life period. Living wills dictate which types of end-of-life interventions, such as life support or feeding tubes and artificial hydration, the individual wishes to receive and in what circumstances, such as a terminal state or one of permanent unconsciousness, among others.

Technology creates new issues in estate planning

Washington residents are wise to plan for the future through the use of estate planning tools. Getting older is inevitable and having a plan for problems that could potentially arise can help people avoid difficult situations in the future. Many Washington residents take appropriate steps by creating wills and other directives for future care, but they should also be aware of unique situations that can occur under estate planning, especially with technological advances in information-related areas.

It seems that individuals are always attempting to keep up with the latest technologies, whether it be the best smartphone or the newest social media website. The phenomenon is no different when it comes to the law. One area where the law lags behind involves estate protection and will creation. Many individuals have their very valuable information saved digitally, through online services such as a social media account, an online bank account, or a personal email account. Issues with wills and estates arise because many websites' and companies' privacy policies prevent non-account holders from accessing private information. This means that if an individual dies without either saving their information to an accessible location or sharing private passwords with designated individuals, their beneficiaries will have a very difficult time accessing assets as well as things of sentimental value such as digital photographs.

Mistakes in estate planning can be harmful

Washington residents are wise to plan for the future through the use of estate planning tools and consumer information, but they should also be aware of unique situations that can occur under estate law that may frustrate the purpose of an individual creating a will, filling out an IRA form or taking other estate planning steps.

One man had his intentions misdirected by such an intricacy in the law and his intended beneficiaries, his children, missed out on a $400,000 inheritance because of it. While the man had taken many steps in preparation to ensure that all of his assets went to the people he designated, he made one simple mistake. Before he passed away, the man filled out an IRA beneficiary form. His intent was to make his children his beneficiaries under that form. However, under the space for beneficiaries he wrote "to be distributed pursuant to my last will and testament" where he was supposed to actually list the name of each individual.

End-of-life planning can prevent heartbreak for families

This blog has previously noted the dispute over the guardianship of radio host Casey Kasem, and Washington residents may have heard the sad news about Kasem's recent passing. The passing away of a loved one can be one of the most tragic and devastating experiences and when that process is complicated by family disputes over the care of an incapacitated loved one, the results are heartbreaking.

The dispute over Kasem's end-of-life care occurred between his children from his first marriage and his subsequent wife. Allegedly, there was bad blood between Kasem's children and wife, and it only worsened when Kasem's health condition continued to go downhill. Kasem's children claimed that their father's wishes were to pass away in peace and comfort in the presence of friends and family. Kasem's wife said that the children were moving too quickly and that they were taking away Kasem's necessary medical care too soon. Kasem passed away at age 82.

Long term care planning benefits families in Washington State

Getting older is inevitable, but even knowing this fact many Washington residents fail to adequately prepare for their futures and the futures of loved ones. As much as some people may prefer to ignore the health and financial issues that go along with aging, dealing with and having a plan for these problems can help people avoid difficult situations in the future.

When families lack the necessary funds to care for a loved one who requires end-of-life care, they are not only impacted economically, but emotionally as well. Only one in six Americans has insurance coverage for long-term care. By the time many individuals seek funds for long-term care, it is often too late and the lack of preparation puts them and their loved ones in financial turmoil. For example, one man entering the twilight of his career was suddenly burdened with custodial care expenses for both in-laws and his father.

Basketball team owner alters family trust in preparation for sale

Washington families can preserve family assets through the use of legal instruments known as trusts. There are numerous types of trusts, each of which present certain advantages and disadvantages. Some families use what are called living trusts to control a family-owned business.

One such trust is at the center of a controversial legal battle. Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers NBA basketball team, has recently faced serious consequences for racist comments he made. As a result of his conduct, Sterling was banned for life by the NBA, which apparently wanted to force him to sell the team. The Clippers were technically owned by the trust, for which Sterling and his estranged wife, Shelly served as trustees. Recently, Sterling was declared mentally incompetent to serve as trustee, leaving Shelly as sole trustee. Soon afterward, Shelly entered into a tentative agreement with a buyer to sell the Clippers team for $2 billion.

Preserving family businesses through trusts

Many Washington residents think of trusts as a kind of bank account they can leave behind for their heirs. That's not an accurate way to describe them. In fact, there are many ways to organize trusts to provide for many different types of beneficiaries.

At the basic level, a trust is formed when a person, known as a grantor, provides the property for a trust, and places it in the care of a trustee for the benefit of designated beneficiaries. The trustee's control over the property is limited by the terms of the trust.

Radio host's family dispute highlights importance of guardianship

Many Washington families have gone through the painful experience of arguing over how to take care of an ailing relative. These arguments can tear a family apart, and they can leave an incapacitated individual without proper care. Recent disputes within the family of radio host Casey Kasem have helped highlight the dangers of these arguments.

A judge recently granted one of Kasem's daughters more legal responsibility over her father's care after finding that Kasem's wife had moved him out of their home state and was not allowing his children to see him. Kasem, who has a form of dementia, was taken out of a California convalescent home in the middle of the night and his children said they did not know where he was. After the children contacted the authorities with their concerns, police began a search for their father. After several days, authorities said they had found Kasem and his wife in Kitsap County.

Mickey Rooney's estranged widow to contest late actor's will

American life spans are longer today than they were in the past, and these long lives can bring many changes. One challenge for many Washington residents when creating their estate plans is to take into account the many turns their lives have taken over the years, to make sure they can leave a legacy for all their loved ones and to make sure their loved ones don't fight over their estate once they're gone.

Recently, the widow of actor Mickey Rooney moved to contest the will he left behind when he died in April at age 93. The will, executed just a few weeks before he died, left his entire estate to his stepson, omitting his wife and children. However, despite a storied film career that stretched from the 1930s to well into the 21st century, his estate at the time of his death was worth only $18,000.

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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
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