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Kent Estate Administration and Probate Law Blog

Estate planning for young families

The last thing couples with small children want to think about is what will happen when they die. Young families are often extremely busy and also feel somewhat invincible when it comes to their inevitable death. But, we all know of a family that has been struck by tragedy at a young age. An estate plan can include many items including guardianships, trusts and health care directives.

Although estate planning may be the last thing on a young family's mind it is extremely important. One incredibly important part of an estate plan is establishing guardianships. Parents need to protect their children in the event of their death or disability by appointing a trustworthy guardian. If a guardian is not appointed the children could be placed with someone the parent's wouldn't approve of or in the custody of child protection or another court appointed guardian.

3 important parts of estate plans

Most Kent area residents don't want to think about what is going to happen when they die. It's a depressing topic for a lot of people and can create worry and sadness. Of course the inevitable will happen one day and having an estate plan is important. There are three important keys to having a good estate plan for heirs.

The first significant part of an estate plan is to have all important information readily available. Having an organized record that lists out accounts and legal documents is key in making sure heirs can easily find the information. The record should include professional contacts and family contacts, location of the will, living will and other estate documents, insurance information, list of all financial institution information, home and car insurance, credit cards, beneficiaries of accounts and user name and passwords for online accounts.

Talking with relatives regarding their estate plan

Many Kent area residents have aging parents. The baby boomer generation is getting older and with age comes estate planning issues. Children of older parents should have a conversation with their relatives to make sure their estate plan is up-to-date. Estate administration is an important part of a person's life and legacy.

Although it can be awkward for people to have a conversation with their parents about their estate plan it is critical that everything is in order. Having a conversation with parents about how their estate plan looks can be eye-opening for everyone. There are two things that children should find out about their parents estate plan. The first is if they have filled out the important documents. These documents include a will, healthcare directive and a durable financial power of attorney. The second important piece of information is if they have named a person to carry out their wishes. Children should know who that person is for when the time comes to look at the estate.

We diligently work with our clients on estate planning matters

Our last post on the blog discussed some common excuses people give for not engaging in estate planning. Talking yourself out of creating a will can be easy, but that doesn't mean that it's right. By skipping out on this important process you could be leaving your heirs facing significant difficulties in the event of your passing. Property may be tied up in probate, litigation may occur and unintended outcomes may result. Therefore, competent estate planning should be a part of every individual's life.

Yet, you might be afraid to confront the reality of your own mortality. That is completely natural. However, many find the estate planning process to put their mind at ease. No longer do they have to worry about what will happen to their property when they die, and they can rest assured that their loved ones will be taken care of as they intend.

Reasons why people do not have a will

Although most Kent area residents know how important an estate plan is few actually have gone about drafting one. Approximately 60 to 80 percent of adults in the U.S. don't have a will and there are many reasons they give for this. For each excuse a person has for not having a will there is still a reason why estate planning is important.

One excuse is that if they draft an estate plan death will soon follow. Of course everyone will die at some point and a well-crafted and thought out estate plan can ensure that a person's legacy and assets are passed one and they have estate protection.

What is an ethical will?

Kent residents have heard of wills as part of a basic estate plan. These documents give direction as to what should be done with a person's assets the time of the person's death. Although these assets are important parts of a family's legacy for many people there is more to a legacy than money. Estate planning is important for all families to direct asset distribution and to ensure that their values and beliefs are passed to their heirs.

In recent years, ethical wills have increased in popularity. Although these are not legal documents they are wonderful resources to leave to heirs regarding what was important to people and what they want their heirs to remember. They are cherished documents for generations.

Do separate trusts make sense for married couples?

Kent area residents who are thinking about estate planning may want to spend some time investigating separate trusts. There are often many benefits for married couples who create separate trusts in their estate plan.

One benefit of a separate trust is that people can isolate creditors from the other spouse. In a separate trust situation marital assets are divided equally among the couple's individual trusts. This can protect the couple's assets from judgements and creditors. If one spouse has a catastrophic lawsuit filed against that person, then only that person's assets are at risk and not the person's spouse's assets. Therefore, this protects half of the couple's estate. If they had joint accounts the entire account could be at risk.

Helping grandkids go to college

Most Kent area residents know how important education is to a person's success in life. When a person is blessed with the means to contribute to a family member's higher education it can mean a world of difference to the recipient. Many grandparents are interested in ways of helping their heirs attend college.

College expenses are extremely high for most students. Students graduating from college are carrying thousands of dollars of loans and other debt with them while they try to search for jobs. Grandparents may feel like they would like to help their grandkids with college expenses if they have the means. One way for grandparents to help is to contribute to a 529 savings plan. A family member can contribute up to $14,000/year or $28,000/year if you're married to a 529 plan without filing a gift tax return. This can help reduce a couple's estate to avoid estate taxes. Another benefit of a 529 plan is that assets held in a grandparent's plan are not counted toward a student's financial aid benefit.

What happens to digital assets upon a person's death?

Many people in the Kent area use digital media in many different ways. They purchase music and movies. They have accounts with Facebook, Amazon, ITunes and others. So, when a person passes away what happens to these assets and can they be included in a will?

There aren't many laws currently regarding what happens to digital assets once a person dies. For many it varies by each account. Amazon will allow a family member to cancel the account but others such as Twitter and Google want the family member to contact them first. Online bank accounts require family members to present death certificates in order to have the account closed.

Information about the federal estate tax

When many people think about an estate plan they often think of the taxes involved. The federal estate tax is often first on their list of things they think they or their heirs are going to have to pay for. There are a few things about the federal estate tax that may be interesting for Kent area residents.

First, it is a rather large amount that a person can leave to their heirs before they are hit with an estate tax. In 2015 the amount was $5,430,000 per person. The assets that are included toward this exemption include bank accounts, brokerage accounts, property and personal property. If an estate has more than this exemption one option to reduce their estate is gifting money to family members. A person and their spouse are allowed to give gifts of up to $14,000 for each person each year.

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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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