Jennifer C. Rydberg, Attorney at Law
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Kent Estate Administration and Probate Law Blog

What are a guardian's duties?

In Washington, guardians may be appointed to assist and protect a person who is legally unable to manage their own affairs because of an incapacity. Guardians are placed in a high position of trust and owe the greatest duty of care to that incapacitated person.

Washington has three types of guardianships. A professional guardian is court-appointed, cannot be a member of the incapacitated person's family and charges fees and carries out these duties for at least three people. A public guardian is a professional guardian who provides these services for the Office of Public Guardianship when no one else can serve as guardian. A lay guardian is a member of the incapacitated person's family.

Death and uncertain taxes

Tax laws may change and complicate estate planning. However, this planning remains important and should not be delayed by a federal tax debate in Congress.

First, many tax experts argue that any appeal of estate taxes will come with a sunset provision where taxes will return in force in a decade. These taxes may even be re-imposed. If the generation-skipping tax is repealed, it may be impossible to move assets outside the transfer tax system. This may block the permanent shifting of assets outside the tax system until the estate tax rules are later reinstated

Planning for future medical care

Individuals may face the day that they must rely on others to make medical decisions for them when they no longer have this ability. Washington has several legal requirements governing health care directives or durable powers of attorney for health care. These advance directives are the best option for assuring that the medical treatment one receives reflects their wishes when that person is unable to express them.

A health care directive, known as a living will, contains instructions addressing what should be done in the event a patient is afflicted with a terminal illness and life-sustaining treatment would only artificially extend the dying process. A living will also governs situations where two physicians certify that a patient is in an irreversible coma or another permanent unconscious condition and recovery is not likely.

Reasons why people have not completed a will

Although many residents of Kent know the importance of having a will, many still have not created one. Only 58 percent of baby boomers have estate planning documents and the numbers get worse as people get younger. Sixty-four percent of those aged 37 to 52 do not have a will, and 78 percent of those 18 to 36 do not have a will.

Clearly, these statistics show a large amount of trepidation when it comes to crafting a will, and there are several different reasons for the hesitance. Most will say that they have not gotten around to it or, in other types of situations, others may say that they do not have any assets to leave.

What happens to an IRA after its owner dies?

Many people in the Kent area have an IRA that they are using for retirement. These funds accumulate over the years and provide money for a person when they enter retirement. Many times, a person does not use all of their IRA money before they die. So, what happens to the rest of the IRA retirement benefits after its owner dies?

The beneficiary of the IRA is typically the person who receives the IRA after the owner dies, regardless of a will that may state otherwise. If there is not a beneficiary listed, or the beneficiary is not valid, then the will dictates who receives the IRA.

There may be consequences for not having an estate plan

Most Kent area residents know how important estate planning is to preserving their wealth for future generations and ensuring their desires are met. But, it is also important to know what the consequences may be if an estate plan is not created, including needing to go through probate.

One consequence of not having an estate plan is that family members may have to go to court to access their loved one's bank accounts, if they die or become incapacitated. If a person unexpectedly becomes ill and unable to make their own decisions, it may be hard for a family member to step up without having access to their funds.

Why would an estate go through probate?

Kent area residents who are working on their estate plans often wonder about probate and wills. Probate is something that people want to avoid, but there are good reasons for an estate to go through probate.

Many times, probate is needed because of the assets a person leaves behind. These assets often require a license or registration, such as a house, car, investments and other property.

What is a personal representative for estate administration?

Most Kent area residents understand the importance of estate planning. These matters should not wait and are critically important. Part of an estate plan is appointing a personal representative. A personal representative helps with estate administration and carrying out the deceased's wishes.

When a family is going through the estate planning process, it is often recommended that they choose a personal representative. A personal representative has many important roles.

Significant portion of Prince's estate will be lost to taxes

Many Kent area residents are concerned about what will happen to their estate after they pass away. A person amasses their wealth over decades, and it is important for them to make sure it passes to their heirs with a minimum of issues. But, for those who do not plan ahead by creating a will and other estate planning documents, a significant portion of an estate can be lost to taxes.

Because Prince did not have a will when he died, nearly half of his estate will be lost to taxes. The estate needs to pay the estate tax payment shortly, which is estimated to be a payment of $100 million dollars. There are many reasons why the estate loses so much to taxes, but the main reason is poor planning.

It is best not to procrastinate when it comes to estate matters

Not many Kent residents derive pleasure from thinking about their inevitable death. This is not a particularly popular topic among families but it is very important. Those who make plans regarding their estate planning ahead of time can give their families the gift of peace of mind.

When a family works out estate planning details prior to their death they are giving their heirs an amazing gift. The death of a spouse is something not many people want to think about, but when it happens the other spouse can be left not knowing what to do. In order to be prepared for the event before it occurs, both spouses should know what all of the assets are. These assets include life insurance, retirement plans, and who is listed as beneficiaries. A power of attorney for both medical care and financial matters should be established for each spouse.

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