A Last Will & Testament is a legal document naming a personal representative to manage your estate upon your passing. In addition to asset distribution, a Will may also name guardians for any minor children and give instructions for the disposition of remains.
If you have privacy concerns, you may prefer a Revocable Living Trust instead of a Will, which is a public document. A Revocable Living Trust might also be a better option if you own real property outside of Washington State, or would simply like to avoid the long and often costly process of probate.
An experienced Tri Cities Wills and Trusts attorney can review your situation to determine the strategy that best aligns with your particular needs and objectives. Contact the Tri Cities office of Evergreen Elder Law today for a free in-person or virtual consultation about your case.
Do I Need a Durable Power of Attorney for Health & Finances?
It is difficult to imagine the possibility of becoming incapacitated, and unable to make your own decisions, but failure to appoint a Power of Attorney makes you extremely vulnerable to the possibility of court-appointed guardianship. A guardian is someone who is tasked with handling your medical and financial affairs when you can no longer do so on your own. By proactively choosing your Power of Attorney you can ensure that this important job goes to the person you have chosen.
Not choosing your Power of Attorney can result in the appointment of a stranger. Someone who doesn’t know anything about you could be appointed to handle decisions about your health and finances. In essence, you may lose all of your rights by failing to address this critical aspect of the estate planning process, whereas taking matters into your own hands preserves your rights and allows you to choose, not the court.
The authority given to a Power of Attorney can be limited or general. A limited Power of Attorney allows the person of your choosing (known as the attorney-in-fact) to act on your behalf in limited situations, such as when you are traveling or otherwise unavailable to sign checks, conduct property transfers, or authorize limited actions. A general Power of Attorney, on the other hand, basically transfers all powers and rights to the attorney-in-fact, who can then make all decisions related to your health care and/or finances.
A Power of Attorney for Finances Vs. Healthcare
Your person of choice may have control over your finances, medical care, or both. A Power of Attorney for Finances is a legal document that gives the attorney-in-fact the right to control your financial affairs, only. Whereas a Power of Attorney for Healthcare authorizes control over your medical care, only. It is possible, but not required, for one named individual to be given both Powers of Attorney.
The Anatomy of a Trust
A Trust is a legal document created by one party that holds property for the benefit of another party. The creator, known as the Trustor, transfers property to a Trustee, who then holds that property for the Trustor’s beneficiaries. Although the Trustee receives legal title to the property, they are obligated, by law, to act in accordance with the terms outlined by the Trust document.
There are two main types of Trusts: Revocable and Irrevocable. Revocable Trusts, commonly known as Living Trusts, give total control to the Trustor during their lifetime. The Trustor can continue to amend the Trust and can revoke or terminate it at any time as well. An Irrevocable Living Trust does not have this flexibility, but it does allow the Trustor and their beneficiaries to avoid the public, often time-consuming, and costly process of probate.
Revocable Trust Vs. Irrevocable Trust
A Revocable Trust allows the Trustor to maintain complete control over their assets, and still avoid probate. Asset protection in a Revocable Trusts can be created to avoid estate taxes by ensuring that some assets are not included in the estates.
Irrevocable Trusts transfer control of property from the Trustor to the Trustee. Once an asset is placed in an Irrevocable Trust, it is no longer considered the property of the Trustor, and the Trustee gains full control. Furthermore, the Trust most often cannot be amended by the Trustor once created, and the Trustee and Trustor cannot be the same person, which is not the case with Revocable Trusts.
By placing assets in an Irrevocable Trust, the Trustor may become eligible for certain means-tested benefit programs, such as social security disability or Medicaid. Since placing property into an Irrevocable Trust means it no longer belongs to the Trustor, the value of that asset cannot be counted against them.
Although Trusts usually cost more to set up than Wills due to their more complex nature, the cost savings are usually realized on the back end through the avoidance of probate.
Frequently Asked Questions About Wills & Trusts in Kennewick, Pasco & Richland
What Should I Do if I Can’t Locate My Loved One’s Will?
If your loved one passes away without having made a Will, you must swear under oath that a Will cannot be located. In the event that a Will is found at a later date, the estate will need to be redistributed according to its specifications.
Is There a Way to Transfer Property Without Having to Sell It?
Ownership of real property can be transferred by the executors of the estate in accordance with the specifications of the Will or based on the rules of intestacy.
What Does It Mean to Die Intestate?
When someone dies without having made a Will, this is known as dying intestate. Intestacy means that a court will determine who inherits the decedent’s assets. Although most people do not intend to die without a Will, approximately 70 percent of Americans currently have no Will.
Can I Change or Remove My Chosen Executor?
During your lifetime, you may change or remove your executor by one of two processes: creating a codicil, which is an addition to the Will, or executing an entirely new Will and naming a different executor. If, however, the creator of a Will has died, the only way to remove or change an executor is by agreement or through a court order. An experienced Wills and Trusts attorney can help if you have a dispute with an executor or wish to arrange a codicil or create a new Will.
Contact a Tri Cities Wills and Trusts Lawyer Today
If you have questions about what estate planning options are best for you and your family, the experienced legal team at Evergreen Elder Law can help. Our highly-skilled Tri Cities Wills and Trusts attorneys and knowledgeable staff will help you navigate this complex process and remain by your side every step of the way. Contact us today for a free, confidential consultation about your situation.