Jennifer C. Rydberg, Attorney at Law
Schedule A Consultation By Calling 425-235-5535

Kent Estate Administration and Probate Law Blog

You can plan for pets in an estate plan

Many Kent area residents have pets. Dogs, cats, birds and other animals are valuable members of our families. Those who have pets may want to consider what would happen to them after they pass away. Using an estate plan to include care for pets is a good way to protect them.

A pet trust can be created to protect animals in the event of a pet owner's incapacity or death. Hundreds of thousands of animals are placed in shelters each year because their owner passes away. A pet trust is a legal document which ensures the pet will receive the care the owner would want. A pet trust contains a trustee, who is in charge of handling the finances, the caretaker for the trust, the pets and who the remainder beneficiary should be. A pet trust needs to have property attached to it so that it is funded for the life of the pet. The remainder beneficiary is who will receive the rest of the property when the pet dies. A pet trust should contain enough money to cover the cost of care for the animal. It is important to know how long a pet is expected to live, as some can live decades, and make sure there is enough money for food and veterinary bills.

A tattoo is not sufficient for health care directives

Washington residents who have certain wishes when it comes to their health care should they become incapacitated should take the necessary steps to put them in writing in a legal way. Simply saying beforehand what the desires are is not sufficient. So too is it insufficient to take unusual steps, such as having the limits to medical care tattooed on one's body.

This problem was made apparent in a news story in which a Florida man who had the words "Do Not Resuscitate" tattooed on his chest. The medical staff could not adhere to the possible wish because it was not a legal document. The man, 70, went so far as to underline the word "not" and to place what appears to be a signature beneath it. That was not enough for doctors to keep from treating the man as he arrived in an unconscious state and near death. Doctors might look at the tattoo or some other marking indicating a person's wishes and briefly hesitate, but legal factors win out, especially in the case of life and death.

Under what circumstances is a trust revocable?

People in Washington who take steps in trust planning might not be entirely certain of the law when it comes to a "revocable" trust or an "irrevocable" trust. For those who are making their estate plans based on the trust and its status as revocable or irrevocable, it is imperative to understand what the law says about these matters. A trust must explicitly state that it is revocable. If it does not, then it cannot be revoked or amended.

With a revocable trust that is created by more than a single trustor, and except in cases when the trust says otherwise, the trust can be revoked by a spouse or domestic partner and can be amended by joint action of both spouses or both domestic partners if it only consists of community property. If it has property other than community property, the trustors can revoke or amend it based on the trustor's contribution to it. The character of separate property and community property will not be affected by it being transferred to a revocable trust. Once the trust has been revoked or amended by any less than all trustors, the trustee is required to inform all other trustors of these decisions.

Are wills really that important?

Washington State residents who are unsure as to whether they should have a will must be aware of the variety of issues that will come up and affect their loved ones and heirs should they not take the necessary steps for estate protection by crafting a will. Even those who do not have significant assets should have one. It is important to know the value of a will.

With a will, the person's assets will go where they decide. At the time of death, the testator will have his or her desires adhered to. This also avoids disputes. Those who have minor children are doing them a disservice if they do not have a will. With a will, they will have someone whom the testator designates to care for them. Otherwise, the state will need to decide. Probate is unavoidable for those with or without a will. If there is a will, probate will go much faster as it tells the court how the person wants the assets to be distributed. If there is no will, the court will decide and it can take an extended period to complete.

How are omitted spouses dealt with in wills?

When a Washington State resident crafts a will, it is done under the applicable circumstances at the time. If, for example, the person was unmarried, then the future spouse might not be listed in the document. Life changes will inevitably occur and people sometimes fail to change their wills quickly enough to reflect those changes. One example is if there is an omitted spouse or omitted domestic partner. The law has a way of handling such a circumstance should it come up and people who are left behind after the testator has died should be aware of it.

A will that does not name a spouse or domestic partner who married the decedent after the will was executed and survives the person - known as the omitted spouse or omitted domestic partner - will get a portion of the estate even if he or she is not named in the will. This is true except in cases in which the omission of the person was apparently done purposely and that is clear in the document.

What if I need to craft a special needs trust?

For Washington families with a disabled loved one, there are often concerns as to what might happen to that person if no one from the family is left to either care for them or to ensure they are getting the care they need. This is when it might be wise to consider a special needs trust. Because the government and other entities are not obligated to provide anything more than baseline care to a disabled person, the family can put funds in a trust to prepare for the future of a disabled person. Done correctly, this can also allow that person to get other benefits he or she is entitled to.

Knowing how much should be in the trust is key. There are various factors that go into this decision. If, for example, the disabled person needs substantial care, it is wise to put as much money as possible into the trust. It can vary. There is not a minimum amount to have a special needs trust, but due to the costs for setup and management, it is suggested that at least $100,000 be placed in the trust. There are multiple ways to fund a trust, such as life insurance policies, inheritances and other assets.

Estate tax limit will rise in 2018

Many Washington State residents who are thinking about their estate plan will not be under the impression that the current debate regarding the estate tax will influence them and their heirs. They will frequently believe that the total value of their assets will not reach the level at which heirs will be taxed. In many cases, that is true. But in some, it is not. Keeping track of the amount that the Internal Revenue Service will exempt on an inheritance is important, especially with the current political climate centered around repealing the federal estate tax.

In 2018, the exemption for the estate and gift tax will be $5.6 million for an individual. This is an increase from $5.49 million. For a couple, it will be $11.2 million. A testator can leave up to these amounts to heirs and the heirs will not have to pay taxes on it. There is also a gift exclusion that is protected from taxes. For 2018, that will rise to $15,000. It has been $14,000 since 2013. The exemptions are contingent on inflation levels.

Estate planning: 5 components that make up a good estate plan

The value of a good estate plan cannot be undervalued in today's society. Kent area residents understand how important an estate plan is to preserve family assets and prepare for the future. There are certain items that make up a good estate plan.

One component that is in almost every estate plan is a will. A will is a document that directs how a person's property will be divided upon their death. It also appoints a personal representative to carry out the deceased's wishes. And if a person has children, it will also list the guardians for their children.

National Estate Planning Awareness Week recently observed

Most Kent area residents understand the value of estate planning. But for those who haven't taken the time to get their affairs in order, it is National Estate Planning Awareness Week, which is a nationwide campaign to educate people that estate planning is not only for the very wealthy.

Over 50 percent of Americans do not have a will, which is why National Estate Planning Awareness Week is so important. Millennials appear to be the least prepared for an unexpected death. Many times millennials think that because they don't have a large amount of assets they don't need an estate plan. But aspects of an estate plan, such as a will or trust, can help take care of other important matters. These can include guiding doctors in a health care emergency and identifying guardians for a person's children.

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.

Main Office
8407 S. 259th Street Suite 203
Kent, WA 98030

Contact Us
Phone: 425-235-5535
Fax: 253-852-0400