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Kent Estate Administration and Probate Law Blog

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.

Digital estate planning is an important part of an estate plan

Most Kent area residents know that an estate plan is a valuable resource for families. They understand that estate plans can offer a family the peace of mind that their wishes will be followed if they are incapacitated or following their death. Estate planning and estate administration continues to evolve and now many estate plans should include a digital aspect as well.

Almost everyone has some kind of digital presence. These can include social media accounts, passwords to investment and bank accounts and downloaded media including books. An estate administrator may not be aware of their existence until after their owner's death and even then many different sites and accounts can easily be missed.

What do Kent residents need to know about ancillary probate?

Many people in Kent own a home in the area. Some may own other homes in Washington or other states as well. When a family is in the process of estate planning, considering the implications of having property in other states is important. If personal property is located in another state at the time of a person's death, that may lead to ancillary probate.

Ancillary probate is a probate procedure that occurs in addition to the primary probate procedure that is located in a person's home state. The property may include real estate or personal property, such as a boat or car if it is titled in that state. It can also include livestock, oil or gas that is not located in a home state.

Do you need to review your estate plan?

Many residents in the Kent area have taken the time to create an estate plan. There are many reasons why an estate plan is important, but there are also reasons to make sure that an existing estate plan stays updated.

One reason why an estate plan may need to be updated would be due to a marriage or divorce. This includes a person's own marriage and divorce and their children's marriage and divorce, if they are listed in estate plans. In addition to a marriage or divorce, the birth of a child can have a significant impact on an estate plan. An estate plan should be updated with the new heir's information and the child's needs regarding a guardian.

Estate planning steps to get started

Many people in the Kent area look forward to retirement. Retirement is a time for relaxing, traveling and doing things that a person couldn't do when they had to work. Planning ahead for retirement by saving money is an important step for all workers. As well as saving money, estate planning should also be a step in a retirement plan.

An estate plan includes many different parts. There are basic steps that should be taken in order to create an estate plan for a family's needs. With these steps a person can set up a plan to pass assets to their heirs or charitable organizations and ensure that their wishes are met. First, a person should decide what is important to them and what they want the estate plan to accomplish. All financial documents should also be organized. Retirement account information should be located, including IRA accounts, 401Ks and pension plan information and beneficiary information should be updated. Consolidate life insurance policies and gather all bank account information. List out all financial assets to help determine who should get what. In addition, important estate planning documents should be created. These include wills, trusts, a healthcare directive and powers of attorney. Once the plan has been created, share it with those who are involved with it. Also update the plan after any major life event.

Estate planning for blended families

Divorce and remarriage is very common in America. Second marriages often bring children into the marriage from previous relationships and sometimes couples have children with their new partner. With this more complicated family structure, estate planning is very important.

A person who is remarried and doesn’t have an estate plan at the time of their death is probably going to embroil their family in a major dispute over their assets. The inheritance can easily be split up not according to your wishes, or an ex-spouse may still be listed as a beneficiary on a bank account, retirement account or an old will.

What we can learn from Prince's lack of an estate plan

Most Kent area residents know about the recent death of music superstar Prince. Although Prince was only 57-years-old when he died, it does not appear that he had an estate plan or a will to indicate how his property should be distributed.

Lots of people may find it surprising that Prince did not have an estate plan. Many assume that those who have a lot of assets have taken the time to work out what would happen to them upon their death. But celebrities are a lot like us and also don't want to think about an untimely death. Many people don't believe that an estate plan is necessary or they put off creating one until it is too late.

A health care advocate is a valuable member of an estate plan

An estate plan can ensure that a family's assets will be protected for generations to come. That is an important part of any good estate plan, and it can reduce anxiety about a family's future. But other important parts of an estate plan are more personal and immediate. In addition to plans for property distribution, good estate plans should include health care directives.

An advanced health care directive is a legal document that spells out medical decisions that need to be made in a crisis situation when a person is unable to communicate their wishes.

Estate planning and philanthropy

Many Kent residents have a deep appreciation for the arts, religion and other non-profit organizations. These are values that they find important to support with their money and other gifts. Although many people think estate planning is about passing their assets on to their heirs, it can also be creating a legacy for years to come by passing assets on to a nonprofit organization.

Many Kent area residents give each year to charitable organizations. Many times it is because they are asked to give and the range of organizations can vary greatly in a family. From the arts, to health care, religion, animal causes and everything in between there seems to be a charity for anything a person can imagine. An estate plan is a wonderful way to plan out a person's deliberate charitable donations.

Tips for dividing family heirlooms

Almost all Kent area residents have items that are special to them and their family. These items can include jewelry, artwork, pottery and many other items. When the time comes to create an estate plan including a will and family trust there are things to keep in mind when deciding how to divide these family heirlooms.

If there is not a will in place when a person dies there can be many disagreements among family members and beneficiaries as to whom receives these heirlooms. There are a few ways to distribute heirlooms after a death without a will. One way is to use a lottery system where pieces of paper with numbers are placed in a bucket and the heirs take turns selecting a piece of paper and what item they want according to the number that they have drawn. Another way is the owner of the property puts names on the items before they die indicating who they want to have those pieces.

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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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