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What factors should you consider when writing a will

Creating a last will and testament is certainly not the first thing on many people’s minds. Yet, the importance of having a will in place is huge, as unforeseen events and accidents may take away your ability to draft a will in the future. Writing a will helps to ensure your property, assets and possessions are handled according to your wishes when you pass and are no longer able to dictate your wishes. There are some factors you should consider when sitting down to create your last will and testament

First, you should think about appointing an estate administrator and who you would like to execute your wishes upon your death. It is important to make sure this person has the time available to see your estate through, and that he or she is responsible and trustworthy to carry out these duties. You will also want to get permission from the person you appoint before naming them as administrator to your estate. If they choose not to carry out the duties after your death, another executor may be appointed. 

What is happening while you wait for probate to end?

After a parent dies, you may soon be ready to move on. Difficult as it may be to say goodbye, you eventually want to return to your normal life. Part of this process is cleaning out your parent's home, collecting your inheritance and obtaining some closure. However, as easy as this sounds, there is a legal process called probate that officially closes the estate of someone who has died.

In the state of Washington, not every estate requires the process of probate. Depending on the size of the estate and how well your loved one prepared it, you may not have to wait long for your inheritance. However, if your loved one's estate is going through probate, you may want to understand the process and your rights as an heir.

How important is estate planning for new parents?

If you recently welcomed a new child into your Washington family, your days undoubtedly are pretty full right now. Not surprisingly, estate planning probably is the last thing on your mind.

Kiplinger advises, however, that you should not overlook this crucial aspect on new parenthood. After all, you have a new little one to love, cherish, provide for and protect. A good estate plan can help you do all of these.

Revisiting your estate plan amid divorce

Anytime you experience a significant change in your life, you may want to revisit and potentially modify your Washington estate plan, and divorcing your spouse constitutes one such change. At Gellner Law Group, we recognize that your needs and desires with regard to your estate plan can change considerably once you split from the person with whom you once planned to share your life. As such, we have helped many people in these situations modify their estate plans to reflect their new circumstances.

According to Forbes, one important estate-planning step to consider making amid divorce is updating your health care proxy to give someone other than your ex the power to make health care-related decisions on your behalf. If you are like most married people, you may have given your spouse the power to make medical determinations regarding your care in the event that you become unable to do so, yourself. You may not, however, want your ex retaining this power once you two go your separate ways.

What should I know about having a power of attorney?

Many older Washington residents worry about how their finances, health care decisions and other vital matters will be taken care of if they become unable to make these important decisions on their own. However, as you may already be aware, you can be rendered incapacitated at any time due to an unexpected illness or accident. You do not have to be approaching your senior years to be concerned about appointing someone to act on your behalf.

As Investopedia explains, a power of attorney is a legal document that can be effective in ensuring your needs are met in the event of an incapacitation. With a power of attorney, you would name someone you trust to handle your affairs. You can make the power of attorney as extensive or as limited as you wish. For example, you may give your sister power of attorney to pay your bills and make medical decisions for you if you wind up hospitalized and are unable to handle matters yourself. You can designate that financial and healthcare decisions be returned to you as soon as you are released from the hospital.

Protect your disabled child with a special needs trust

When you work on your Washington estate plan, you probably do so with the intent of leaving as much of your wealth behind for your child as you possibly can. If your child has special needs, however, you may need to make additional accommodations for him or her in your absence. At Gellner Law Group, we understand that estate planning for a special needs child involves additional considerations, and we have helped many people facing similar circumstances pursue estate planning solutions that meet their needs.

According to CNBC, providing a lifetime of care for your disabled or special needs child can cost you millions, but if you leave your child too much of your wealth in a traditional will, it can lead to additional hardship. How? Odds are, your special needs child is currently utilizing one or more types of government assistance, such as Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income, to get by. The potential problem, however, is that such benefits undergo distribution based on need, and if your child has too much money available to him or her, it may make him or her ineligible to continue to receive these benefits.

Addressing your transfer on death accounts

You may not know that starting your estate planning could begin with just a few steps. In particular, if you have bank accounts, savings accounts or other similar accounts, you could easily name beneficiaries to those accounts and begin getting your end-of-life affairs in order more quickly than you ever imagined.

The reason that getting started with these accounts is an easy way to address certain parts of your estate is that, commonly, they are transfer on death accounts. As a result, if you name beneficiaries to these accounts and keep them updated, they will be ready to pass on to those beneficiaries after your passing.

Do you qualify for relief from tax penalties?

Anyone can fall on hard times. Moreover, with recent changes to tax regulations, those hard times may have been made harder by a more significant tax debt than someone expected. However, the IRS does provide relief for people in tough situations if they can prove they had good reason to fall short on their tax obligations.

This type of relief from penalties is called a "reasonable cause penalty abatement." It applies in situations where someone tried to comply with IRS requirements but failed due to circumstances beyond their control.

How to choose an estate administrator

When planning your estate, there are a myriad of factors to consider. One of the most important may be who you choose to handle your estate once you have passed. The estate administrator, sometimes referred to as the executor of the estate, is responsible for ensuring all matters involving the estate are handled properly. It may be daunting at times for estate administrators to juggle all of the duties given to them, and so it is critical that you select someone who is up for the task. If, however, the administrator you choose does not want to take on the position, he or she may decline and the court will appoint one to take over the duties. 

It is helpful if the estate administrator is organized, detail-oriented, punctual and has the time needed to devote to certain activities. Executors are responsible for gathering all of the property and assets included in the estate and then having them evaluated to find the estate's value. Any expenses still owed by the estate, such as income taxes, property taxes or other debts, are paid out of the estate's value. The administrator also protects the estate from theft and vandalism during probate. Once the probate process has taken place, the remaining property and assets are distributed to the beneficiaries named in your last will and testament. The right estate administrator can help to ensure your estate is taken care of after you have passed. 

Is it hard to write a will?

The term "estate planning" is all-inclusive and defines the process whereby you plan for your future. Throughout your efforts to establish an estate plan for yourself in Washington, you may write a will, make critical designations of your assets, identify people you trust to make important end-of-life decisions on behalf of you should you become incapacitated, and even make preparations for the care of dependents in the event of your death. 

Writing a will, in particular, will require you to think extensively about your desires for the people and things you care most about. What do you want to happen to them after you die? Making these determinations now is a way to guarantee that the things that mean the most to you will not be turned over to the state when you pass away. While writing a will may seem daunting at first, it should not take you a lot of time, especially if you have some help doing it. 

Make Your Consultation Appointment

To speak with an attorney at Gellner Law Group about estate planning, probate, trusts, wills or tax controversy, contact our law office in Kent, Washington, today. You can call 425-336-2908 or send us an email. We provide representation across the entire Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area.

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