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Kent Estate Administration and Probate Law Blog

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.

Does a conservation easement make sense in your estate plan?

Kent area residents enjoy beautiful surroundings and gorgeous areas to enjoy nature. There are many parks and other protected natural areas in the Seattle area and the State of Washington. Residents value these natural resources and are grateful to have them. For residents who own land a conservation easement may be a valuable part of a will and estate plan.

In the past we have discussed charitable giving as an important part of estate planning. Many people view our natural resources as important properties that need to be protected. For those who own these valuable properties a conservation easement can be a wonderful way to make sure these natural resources are still there in the decades to come. A conservation easement allows landowners to preserve the land and water for public use. It prohibits the use of the land for development and allows the land to remain a habitat for animals, scenery and recreation.

Guardianships should be chosen carefully

For those in the Kent area who are in need of setting up a guardianship for a vulnerable child or an incapacitated individual, the process may feel overwhelming. Guardians are important in caring for a loved one who can't take care of themselves. But there are many issues with guardians taking advantage of the people they are supposed to be caring for.

Because of this, and other, problems, there is a movement across the country urging the legal system to reform the guardianship laws. Many reports have shown that guardianships may be too easy to obtain and hard to reverse if there is a need. Meanwhile the vulnerable can easily be neglected by a system that is overcrowded and may not have enough people checking to make sure they are ok.

Planning for the unexpected

No one in the Kent area believes their life is going to take a sudden turn for the worse. For many of us that's true but an injury that causes a person's incapacitation can happen at any time. Health care directives are important in the event that a serious injury leads to a person's incapacitation.

A serious injury that leads to a person not being able to make medical decisions for themselves is a devastating event for a family. If an event occurs which causes incapacitation the injured person often doesn't have control over their medical or economic decisions. This is why it is important to plan for these events. If a power of attorney is set up before a catastrophic event, a person chooses who they want to be their health care representative. They can also set up a power of attorney for financial matters.

A financial inventory can be crucial for estate planning

No one wants to think of their inevitable death. But, estate planning can go a long way in making a family feel secure in their financial decisions. One important document that can be extremely beneficial to an estate plan is a financial inventory.

A financial inventory can help a person's heirs or their estate executor once the testator is gone. It includes all of a person's financial accounts and the contact people for these accounts. A thorough financial inventory will include the date it was completed. It will also contain three types of information including accounts, people and papers.

Newlyweds should think about their estate plan

The thrill of a wedding is something that gets brides and grooms excited for months in advance of the actual event. A person's wedding is one of the happiest days of their lives and is an event that is anticipated by everyone in the family. But after the wedding there are certain important things that newlyweds should think about and one of those is estate planning.

Although the last thing a newlywed wants to think about is their death but there are certain things newlyweds should do as far as estate planning. First they should update the beneficiary information on their accounts that include 401Ks, life insurance and other retirement accounts.

An estate plan can include nonprofits

When people think about what will happen after they die they typically hope that other people remember them for a long time. No one wants to be forgotten. Establishing an estate plan that includes a legacy of giving, along with passing assets to an heir, can be a wonderful way to ensure a person's name lives on long after the person gone.

Leaving a legacy of giving is a great way to have a person's name live on after the person has passed away. Everyone wants their lives to have an impact and helping others through charitable giving is something that Kent area residents consistently do. If people are thinking about giving to a charity through a charitable trust they may first want to think about what values they find important and choose organizations based on those values. A person would also want to think about whether they want their gift to remain a quiet matter or if they want public recognition.

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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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