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Kent Estate Administration and Probate Law Blog

Without a will, a person's wishes may not be honored

Most Kent area residents know the importance of an estate plan, but many have not taken the time to create a will, trust, or health care directive. Many may think that when they die, their estate will go to their loved ones; however, it can be more complicated than what one might thing, which is why having a will is so important.

Around 64 percent of Americans do not have a will, although anyone over the age of 18 can and usually should have one. If a person dies without a will, the state will decide how the property is distributed. Some of these heirs may be people that a person would not want their assets to go to. Once a will is created, it should be reviewed every few years to make sure the intended beneficiaries are the same and if any other major changes need to be made.

After a divorce, estate planning is important

Although many Kent residents don't anticipate that a divorce will happen to them, many marriages do end in divorce. Soon after a divorce is finalized, meeting with an estate attorney is important as many documents may need to be updated, including wills and trusts.

As we have discussed in previous blog posts, estate planning is for everyone. Not everyone needs complicated wills and trusts, but a simple will, power of attorney and health care directive should be part of everyone's estate plan. A divorce can take a big emotional toll on a person, but once the divorce is finalized, existing estate plans need to be changed and new estate plans should be created.

Estate planning for younger people

Almost all Kent area residents know how important estate planning is. Estate planning is not just wills and trusts, but also power of attorney designation, health care planning and more. For young people, estate planning may seem to be something for older people. But, young people also need to take a look at estate planning and how some options are important no matter what age a person is.

Young adults often don't think about estate planning. Most of these people haven't actually amassed an estate and therefore aren't worried about what will happen to their assets if they pass away. But, for young people, one part of estate planning is extremely important. This is the medical power of attorney. When a person is under the age of 18, parents make decisions on their children's medical care. But when the person is over the age of 18, parents may not be able to access their child's medical records or make health care decisions for their child unless they've been granted medical power of attorney. In addition to a medical power of attorney, a young person should also designate a financial power of attorney.

Regularly revisiting an estate plan is a good idea

Most Kent area residents understand the importance of regularly visiting the doctor and dentist to keep them in good health. But another area of their life that should be revisited is their estate plan, including their will, trusts, and health care directives. There are many life changes that can impact an estate plan.

Having an estate plan is a good way to ensure your wishes are honored and your estate is minimally impacted by taxes and probate. Reviewing an estate plan every 3 to 5 years can ensure that important changes can be made if anything needs updating. The person chosen to be the power of attorney or trustee may be different along with intended heirs. There are also life events that can affect an estate plan. These may include divorce, marriage, death of a family member, new child or grandchild, financial situation, retirement, real estate in another state, and starting a business.

Legal planning for individuals with Alzheimer's Disease

An Alzheimer's diagnosis is devastating for families in the Kent area. This disease seriously affects both the patient and their family. The prognosis of Alzheimer's can be discouraging, so legal documents and legal planning are very important. There are several estate planning legal documents a person with Alzheimer's should have in order for others to have the ability to make decisions on the patient's behalf and make sure their wishes are honored.

There are several legal documents that a person with Alzheimer's should have created before the disease progresses. The first is a power of attorney. This document allows the person to name an individual to act on their behalf for financial matters once they no longer have legal capacity. There should also be a power of attorney for health care decisions that need to be made. These can include health decisions for the types of treatments, deciding what care facilities to use, end of life decisions and do not resuscitate orders. Health care decisions should be discussed in advance so that the Alzheimer's patient makes their wishes known and feels comfortable knowing that their chosen power of attorney is able to act on their behalf. A living trust may be created in order to pool all assets into one place and create instructions as to what to do with these assets when a person is no longer able to make decisions. A will can also be created to distribute assets upon a person's death. A medical release of information form should also be created so that doctors can share information with family members.

Estate planning and vacation homes: some things to consider

Many Kent area residents own a vacation home. These special places are where families gather to make memories and get away from it all. Many times these homes are passed down through the generations, ensuring that they remain in the family for a long time. Before a person passes their vacation home to their children through a will or trust, there are a few things they should consider.

One thing a parent should consider before passing the vacation home to their children is to make sure the children even want the home. It is important to check with the potential heirs to see who would want the vacation home. An heir would need to consider the upkeep cost, distance to travel to the home and other factors. It is also important to determine how to leave the home to the children.

Including in-laws in your will

There always seems to be jokes about a person's in-laws and how they are crazy, mean, lazy or worse. But for many Kent area residents, in-laws are beloved members of their family. When a person is creating their will they may wonder if they should include specific in-laws, many times their son-in-law or daughter-in-law.

Estate planning is unique to every family and their needs and desires. There are certain things a family may want to consider if they want to include their in-laws in their will. A person may want to consider if this is the first marriage for their child, how long the couple has been married, if there are kids from other relationships and whether the couple has separated in the past. A person may worry that part of their estate will be given to a son or daughter-in-law, their child may die and the in-law would re-marry and use their inheritance in their new relationship. If a family wants to include their in-laws it may be wise to put in the will that they will inherit the assets only if they are still married to the spouse.

Does an ABLE Act account make sense for your child's future?

Kent area parents who have a child with disabilities know how important it is to plan for their child's future. These children will need care their entire lives, and parents need to consider how their vulnerable children will be taken care of when the parents die. There are several different ways parents can plan ahead, including a relatively new option that has become available.

In 2014, President Obama signed into law, the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act. This law allows people with qualified disabilities to create a tax free savings account. The account holder can save up to $100,000 without it impacting the benefits they receive from SSI or Medicaid. If the account has more than $100,000, the person will no longer receive SSI but can still be eligible for Medicaid. The interest earned on the savings is tax free but contributions made to the account are not tax free. Contributions are limited to $14,000 each year. When the account beneficiary dies, the money left in the account must first be used to repay Medicaid expenses.

Business owners need an estate plan

Business owners in the Kent area have worked hard to build their business and make it successful. When it comes to thinking about succession of their business they need to start estate planning sooner rather than later. By planning ahead, a business owner can maximize the chances that their business will be protected from tax penalties and will remain running after their death.

There are certain elements that a business succession plan should include. First, it needs to include who will own the business and who will manage the business. The successors should be trained and developed and responsibility and authority should be delegated to these successors. Coordination between the successive owners and managers of the business should occur. It may be a good idea to transfer the business during the owner's lifetime so that they are able to consult with the new owners and management and reduce the risk of it being sold.

Same-sex couples and estate planning

Same-sex married couples in Washington should know that estate planning applies to their relationships the same as it does to opposite sex marriages. Now that same-sex marriage is legal across the country, the same rules apply to all married couples.

Same-sex couples are now viewed the same as opposite-sex couples across the United States. This means that same-sex married couples will have spousal priority in instances of guardianship proceedings or matters regarding an incapacitated spouse's medical care. They also have survivorship rights to their spouse's pension plan and retirement accounts, regardless of what state these originated from and whether they recognized same-sex marriage before the 2015 Supreme Court decision. Upon a same-sex spouse's death, their property will automatically go to their spouse unless they have a will that provides otherwise. And the spouse will have priority in the trust proceedings after their spouse's death.

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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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