Preparing for one’s one death can feel challenging to grabble with, but properly preparing your estate will help your loved ones navigate your passing without the added burden of determining what your wishes would have been.

How and when you prepare your estate may differ based on your age. For example, young parents may create a will to help determine custody of their newborn child. People in their 60’s and 70’s may plan their estate to determine who will get their house and inherit any money they have.

Regardless of when you’re preparing your estate, there are some things you should determine first to help make the process easy.

What Is Estate Planning?

Estate planning is more than just creating a will. Estate planning does include what happens to your property and money after you die. But a more in-depth estate plan can include who would have custody of any children under the age of 18 years old, handling your taxes, what you’d like your end of life care to be, if you want your body to be cremated or buried, and what the preferred details of your funeral or memorial service are. [1].

What Should I Do First When Preparing My Estate In Washington State?

The first thing you want to do when creating a will or estate plan is appoint an executor. An executor will be the person executing your wishes after you pass.

Then, if you have young children, you will want to discuss with other adult loved ones who would care for your children if you die. This will ensure your children have a place to go if you die and avoid foster care.

Next, you’ll want to decide what happens to your property. The tools for declaring your wishes are wills and living trusts. Wills are the most common choice, as they are simpler and less expensive [1]. However, living trusts can assign beneficiaries, reduce inheritance taxes, and avoids putting the property through court probate [1].

Another thing you’ll want to do quickly is if you have a long-term partner that you’re not legally married to, a will can also protect them if you die. Legally, spouses have the right to make medical decisions for their partners when they are not able to. A will can give your partner this right and the right to any life insurance money [2]. This is something you might want to address sooner rather than later because of how the law works in regard to unmarried partners.

What Parts Of Estate Planning Can Wait?

Most millennials have thousands of digital assets online from social media accounts to videos. In your estate plan, you can designate a digital executor to run those accounts after you die [2]. While this may be more important to some, in general, this is something you can deal with after you’ve taken care of your children, partner, and property in your estate plan.

How Can I Start Estate Planning In Washington State?

Estate planning is for everyone. You can start estate planning at any time and update your will or living trust if you have any big life changes. The best way to create a clear, concise, and legally upholdable estate plan is by reaching out to the esteemed lawyers at Priest Family Law. Our team can help you create an estate plan that is right for you and your family. A good estate plan will give you and your loved one’s peace of mind.

[1] Simmons Hannibal, Betsy. “What Is Estate Planning?” Nolo. https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/what-is-estate-planning.html

[2] Keene, Valerie. “Estate Planning For Millennials.” Nolo. https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/estate-planning-for-millennials.html

It’s hard to watch adored parents age. But in order for you to best take care of them in life and in death, creating an estate plan will help.

Some parents are not proactive about estate planning or perhaps you wonder which sibling will be the executor. It’s a good idea to talk with your parents about their estate plan and a good attorney can help.

What Should I Do First When Helping My Parents Estate Plan In Washington State?

Depending on your relationship with your parents, you can start by discussing their wishes and an estate plan in the comfort of their home. Discuss who they’d want as an executor and what they’d like done with their property. You’ll also want to discuss any wishes they have in regards to their funeral. Then, you can reach out to an estate planning lawyer to finalize those wishes.

If you’d like more guidance in initiating this talk, the lawyers at Priest Family Law can provide you with tips and resources to guide the conversation and show you what you need to create an estate plan.

Does An Estate Plan Help With End Of Life Care Wishes In Washington State?

Many people think of a will or estate plan exclusively as tools to disperse money and property, but in fact, they can be much more. Estate plans can give children or unmarried partners the right to make medical decisions for an ailing parent. It can also designate when extraordinary measures should and should not be taken.

If your parents have religious wishes for their passing, from being cremated to buried to a mass or memorial service, this can all be designated in a will. This will ultimately make their passing easier, as there are fewer decisions to be made about a funeral and more time to grieve your loved one [1].

If My Parents Have Multiple Children, Who Should Be Executor?

If your parents have more than one child, it is possible to name all children as co-executors. However, every family is different. Some might want to only designate the oldest child or a child that is better with finances. A family discussion may be in order, as being an executor does take some work and some siblings may opt-out.

If your parent is estranged from a child, they may want to exclude them from executing their wishes or receiving any inheritance.

What If My Parents Are Divorced In Washington State?

If your parents are divorced, you’ll want to ask them if they created a will prior to divorcing and if so, if they’ve updated it since. You’ll want to discuss with each parent separately if they want any of their estate to go to their ex-partner, as some states don’t automatically cut off ex-spouses from inheritance. Each parent will also need to designate a new executor and beneficiaries [2].

How Can I Help My Parents Create An Estate Plan In Washington State?

If your parents live in Washington State, create an estate plan will help you execute their wishes after they die. In order to do this smoothly and legally, you’ll want to create an estate plan with the team at Priest Family Law. Our firm has a team of trusted professionals who can help you and your parents feel at ease about their end of life plan. It will give you and your parents comfort to know there is a solid plan in place for the details they care about and their assets.

[1] Simmons Hannibal, Betsy. “What Is Estate Planning?” Nolo. https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/what-is-estate-planning.html

[2] Thomas, Aaron. “Thinking Ahead To Estate Planning Changes Due To Divorce.” Lawyers.com. https://www.lawyers.com/legal-info/family-law/divorce/thinking-ahead-to-estate-planning-changes-due-to-divorce.html

Creating a proper estate plan will help ensure your wishes about end of life care and your funeral, as well as, how your property and assets are distributed after death. The best way to ensure your estate plan will be executed smoothly is to hire an estate planning attorney.

Asking your lawyer a few questions will help you pick the best estate planning attorney for you and will help understand your options and determine the best path forward for you.

How Long Have You Been A Practicing Attorney In Washington State?

When creating your estate plan, you want an attorney that has experience creating other estate plans. But you also want someone who is familiar with technology and digital assets, as a lot of millennial clients want to name a digital executor to their online files and digital life [1]. At Priest Family Law, our attorney partner has been practicing for 12 years and has experience working with estate plans in Washington, as well as vast trial experience.

How Long Does The Estate Planning Process Take?

This answer will vary based on how complicated your wishes and estate are. You may also wish to advise other professionals in your estate plan, such as your accountant. However, if you are sick, or perhaps you’re helping an aging parent create an estate plan, you’ll want to know if this will take months or weeks with each attorney you speak to.

How Do You Charge For Estate Plans?

Some estate planning attorneys charge by the hour and others may charge a flat fee for estate planning. Wills also tend to cost less than creating a living trust [2].

What If I Want To Leave Someone Out Of My Will In Washington State?

Many states have laws to protect people from disinheriting a spouse and children [3]. If you want to disinherit a child it’s important to explicitly say so in the will and can also be helpful to write a letter of intention why they are being disinherited. This can help prevent your wishes from being challenged in court.

How Do I Avoid High Estate Taxes In Washington State?

While federal estate tax is now only applied to estates valued at more than $11.58 million, Washington State also implements an estate tax [4]. Washington State imposes this tax on estates valued at more than $2.193 million [5]. You may think you’re below the $2 million mark, but it’s important to keep in mind that any homes, property, cars, bank accounts, retirement accounts, and life insurance are all added up to create an estate’s value [5]. Your executor is also required to file a tax return for your estate within nine months of your death. Your attorney can help you better understand this.

Why Should I Choose Priest Family Law?

At Priest Family Law, we understand that creating an estate plan can be challenging emotionally to think about your death or if family ties are complicated. We have vast experience helping clients navigate this process and creating strong estate plans. We’ll help you execute your wishes and give you peace of mind.

[1] Keane, Valerie. “Estate Planning For Millennials.” Nolo. https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/estate-planning-for-millennials.html

[2] Simmons Hannibal, Betsy. “What Is Estate Planning?” Nolo. https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/what-is-estate-planning.html

[3] Simmons Hannibal, Betsy. “Leaving Someone Out Of Your Will.” Lawyers.com. https://www.lawyers.com/legal-info/trusts-estates/wills-probate/leaving-someone-out-of-your-will.html

[4] “State Estate Taxes.” Nolo. https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/state-estate-taxes.html

[5] Randolph, Mary. “Washington Estate Tax.” Nolo. https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/washington-estate-tax.html