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

Business succession planning is critical for Washington residents

Business owners in the Kent area have worked hard to grow and maintain their business. Business owners are proud of what they have accomplished, but if they haven't planned for what will happen in the future, everything can unravel after they die.

Over 50 percent of small business owners are over the age of 50. With the aging population of business owners comes the planning necessary to make sure their business continues to succeed for many years to come. Preparing for what is to come for a family business can make the difference between them going out of business or continuing to operate. In a business succession plan, there are several items that are addressed. These may include the importance that the family continues to run the business, future cash flow needs for the business, what happens if there is an unexpected death, divorce, or incapacitation of the business owner, and tax implications for transferring business assets to family members.

What will happen if you can no longer care for yourself?

It is a terrifying prospect to consider for a Kent resident. One day they are living their life, enjoying the many people and activities that bring happiness into their existence, and the next they are alive but unable to communicate or respond to those who address them. This is a reality for an unfortunate number of individuals who suffer life-altering accidents and injuries and who suddenly become dependent on the care and decision-making power of others to survive. It is also a reality for older Washingtonians who through illness and time gradually lose the capacity to make sound decisions about their care.

Regardless of how a person arrives in a state where they can no longer decide how best to see to their personal needs, it is important for them to understand before such a situation occurs that they have options for preparing for this scenario. Through the execution of directives and living wills individuals can make their desires known for how they want their care to be provided and who they will allow to make decisions on their behalf.

Jasper Johns leaving estate for artist's retreat

There are many people in the Kent and greater Seattle area who believe in the importance of helping others. Using an estate plan is one way to ensure one's legacy lives on for future generations.

The famous painter Jasper Johns has revealed that he is planning to leave his rural estate as a retreat for artists. The 87-year-old painter lives in rural Connecticut and recently received permission to leave his home as a retreat for up to two dozen artists at a time. The Presidential Medal of Freedom winner believes the gift will allow artists to seek help from others and work on their crafts.

Protecting pets in an estate plan

Many residents of Kent in the Seattle area have pets in their home. These pets are important members of the family and are loved and cared for by their owners. But what happens if these beloved pets outlive their owners?

When a pet owner dies or becomes incapacitated, their pets are often left behind and forgotten. These animals frequently wind up in shelters, which is a place that many owners would not have wanted them to wind up.

Updating estate planning documents is important

Many Kent area residents understand the importance of estate planning and have estate planning documents created. These are important documents in order to protect a family's assets and communicate a person's wishes. But keeping these documents up-to-date is also important.

Estate planning documents should always be updated when a person gets married or divorced. Also, when a beneficiary's life circumstances changes, the estate planning documents may need to be updated. This can include marriage, divorce, death, or have children. If a parent renews a relationship with an estranged child, the parent may want to add that child to their estate plan. Or if there are major changes in the law that affect estate plans. In addition, estate plans should be revisited every five years or so to make sure they are still relevant.

Advice for choosing a trustee

Those in the Kent area who are working on their estate plan may find that setting up a trust is a good idea for their family. A revocable trust is a common estate planning tool for those in Kent, and setting one up requires naming a trustee.

Choosing a trustee for a revocable trust is something that a person may take for granted, but it is a very important role. In a revocable trust, when the first spouse dies, the other spouse usually becomes the sole trustee. It is when the second spouse passes away that a successor trustee comes into play. Choosing that trustee is important. Children are often named as a successor trustee. This can work well if this isn't a divorce situation, there is only one child, the child lives nearby, and all the assets are investments. A trustee job can be time-consuming, though, and if a child is chosen as a successor trustee they may be struggling with their grief and would thus may not be able to handle the additional burden of dealing with the estate.

Transferring a home to heirs while still alive can have benefits

With the increase in Baby Boomers in Washington and across the country, working out an estate plan is becoming more and more important. For many people, their house is their most valuable asset, meaning that it can play an important role in estate planning. Leaving a home to an heir before passing away can bring benefits for both parties.

Creating a plan for what happens to the family home after a person dies is an important estate planning matter. One way for a person to transfer their home to their heirs is by creating a trust. Setting up a trust to handle the family home can be a good way to avoid probate and lower costs. Distributing assets after a person has died is also easier and quicker. Another way to transfer a property is to gift it to an heir while still alive. This can also help an elderly person qualify for Medicaid, which can help provide long-term skilled nursing care. Before taking these steps, though, it is important to know whether one's heirs actually want the house.

What are some basic types of trusts in Washington?

Most Washington State residents are at least aware that trusts exist. Even if they are only familiar with them due to television depictions of wealthy people, or because of certain cultural references like 'trust fund kids,' they probably have at least some idea that these instruments are used in order to distribute wealth under certain controlled conditions. However, in reality, trusts are not only for rich people, and can be useful for many different kinds of estate planning. Further, there are a number of different types of trusts that are used for different purposes.Today, we will look at two very basic forms of trusts: 'inter vivos' (during life) and testamentary. Both of these trusts can be used by Washington residents to implement their estate planning desires, but they work in slightly different ways.

Inter vivos trusts, as the name implies, are created while the people creating them are still living. These types of trusts can be either 'revocable' or 'irrevocable.' A revocable trust can be cancelled by the person who created it at any point. Irrevocable trusts, on the other hand, once created, generally must remain in existence. Both types of inter vivos trusts will help with avoiding probate, but will have differences in other areas, such as protection of assets from creditors. In most cases, it is a good idea to have a 'pour-over' clause in a will when setting up an inter vivos trust to avoid probate, so as to catch any assets that may have been missed when creating or adding to the trust.

Should you put your vacation home in a trust?

Kent area residents who are lucky enough to own a vacation home are probably popular among their friends and family members. Many times, a vacation home owner wants to keep the home in the family. There are estate planning options that can be exercised to help with this process.

An irrevocable trust may be an estate planning option that is attractive for a family with a vacation home. An irrevocable trust can help in the event the vacation home owner ever needs long-term care. No matter how a person plans, long-term care at the end of life is something that many Washington residents will need to use. But, this long-term care does not come cheap and can cost thousands of dollars each month. This can quickly eat up a person's life savings and may eventually require a person to sell their vacation home. So, in order to preserve the family's vacation home for future generations, putting the residence in an irrevocable trust may be a good idea.

What does the probate process look like in Washington?

The word "probate: usually invokes horror stories from Washington residents. But, the truth is probate is not as bad as some would lead you to believe. For this reason, knowing the probate process may be helpful to ease the fears in families.

There are several steps a person needs to take when going through the probate process in Washington. First, a petition is filed in court that states the will is the official will of the deceased. The personal representative of the estate will also need to sign a sworn oath. Once a person has been assigned personal representative of the estate they will need to give notice to everyone named in the will and any heirs. The Department of Social and Health Services will also need to be notified and they will determine if the deceased owes any back child support. The deceased assets will then need to be reviewed. This will include all assets, including investments, bank accounts, real estate, bonds, and insurance policies. Safe deposit boxes should also be analyzed, and there may be benefits from the Veterans Administration, Social Security Administration, and pensions that should be applied for.

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