Jennifer C. Rydberg, Attorney at Law
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What are some immediate estate planning tasks one can take?

Estate planning can help avoid litigation and other headaches for heirs in Washington. A well-drafted will helps prevent confusion and the expense and inconvenience of fights over probate or inheritance issues. Other documents should also be drafted for effective planning.

A living will express wishes and guidance for life-prolonging medical care. A durable medical power of attorney also provides authorization to another party to make important medical decisions such as these end-of-life-decisions when a person has an incapacity.

It is also important to review the designated beneficiaries on accounts such as an IRA, 401(k) or life insurance policies. Beneficiary designations takes precedence over bequests in wills and trusts and may need to be updated.

Asset and debt lists should be prepared. Assets such as real estate, personal property and business property should be identified with an estimated value. The list should also contain bank and brokerage accounts, pensions and retirement accounts, investments and insurance policies.

Consolidation of bank accounts and IRAs may lower administrative burdens for heirs. Heirs should be apprised of meaningful charities that can be listed in the obituary for donations.

A reliable executor should be chosen with consideration of whether they will be alive to administer the estate and understand basic estate law and finances. There should be a mechanism to allow communication on how assets should be distributed.

The executor should also have copies of the will, power of attorney, health care proxy or living will. Copies of these documents should be provided to relatives and loved ones if they are referenced in the documents

This planning is essential for anyone who has a blended family and family members with special needs, wants to avoid probate delays and expenses and needs to prepare for the time that they are unable to make decisions for themselves. An attorney can help draft documents that meet these needs and comply with Washington's legal requirements.

Source: The Post Searchlight, "A primer for estate planning," Keith Lyle, June 16, 2017

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