Estate Planning

Estate PlanningIf something happened to you, do you know who would inherit your estate? Or who would be named guardian of your children? We can help create or update an estate plan that legally documents your current intentions and directives.

HIGHLIGHTS:

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FREQENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

What is an estate plan?
How can I legally document my wishes?
When should I create or change my estate plan?
Who needs to think about estate planning?
Are there risks if I leave everything to my children?

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When working with a McKinley Irvin estate planning attorney you will be working with the largest family law firm in the state. This resource can be invaluable as situations in your life and family change.

Our Estate Planning Services

Estate planning allows you to manage the difficult decisions of tomorrow, today. We will create a comprehensive legal estate plan that takes into consideration your unique family situation, financial circumstances, and your personal beliefs and wishes.

Your estate planning documents will be unique to you. Your estate planning choices, made with the help of your estate planning lawyer, will represent what is most important to you.

Schedule an estate planning consultation in Seattle, Bellevue or Tacoma by contacting us at 206-625-9600. At the consultation, you can tell us about your life and get your estate planning questions answered. If you choose to move forward with the process, we will guide you though the decisions you will need to make and prepare a complete legal estate plan according to your wishes.

Special estate planning considerations if you are getting or have recently been divorced

For clients going through a divorce, estate planning is an important means of ensuring the proper distribution of assets should something unforeseen occur. Filing for divorce generally does not remove your spouse from any pre-existing legal estate documents and also does not terminate your spouse’s rights under Washington State law.

  • In the event of your death, your spouse may have the right to control or completely inherit your estate.
  • If you become incapacitated, your spouse could also obtain decision-making authority over your finances and healthcare decisions.

In order to fully protect our clients, we strongly recommend estate planning for anyone currently involved in a divorce proceeding or who is already divorced.


Estate Planning Frequently Asked Questions


What is an estate plan?

An estate plan is more than just a will. The estate planning process produces a series of legal documents which will govern everything from asset distribution to life and death decisions:

  • Your will or trust (who inherits your property; who will be guardian for your children?)
  • Your durable powers of attorney (who makes decisions for you if you cannot?)
  • Your health care directives (what medical treatment do you want to receive?)
  • Your insurance beneficiary designations (who receives your insurance benefits?)
  • Your retirement plan beneficiary designations (who receives your retirement benefits?)
  • Your burial and organ donation instructions (how do you want your remains to be handled?)

How can I legally document my wishes?

By working with an estate planning attorney now, you can establish clear instructions for how you would like difficult situations dealt with when you are no longer able to make your opinion known.

A legal estate plan allows you to:

  • Ensure the correct people receive your assets and retirement benefits
  • Protect your assets from people you do not wish to be involved
  • Direct who will make your health care and financial decisions if you are not able
  • Nominate a guardian for your children
  • Nominate a personal representative to manage your estate

Your estate planning documents will speak for you and help your family manage your affairs consistent with your wishes.

When should I create or change my estate plan?

You should not wait until you are sick, incapacitated, or elderly to create a legal estate plan. You don’t need to be rich to have an estate plan. The directives you put in your legal estate plan apply not only after your death, but also if you become incapacitated at any point in your life. It is never too early to be prepared.

This is even more important if you have children. An estate plan is how you have a say in what happens to your kids in the event of your death or incapacitation.

If you already have an estate plan, you should update it any time you experience a life-changing event (death, birth, divorce, buying a house, starting a business, inheritance, etc.). Also, estate laws change often. You should have your estate plan updated every 3-5 years to make sure it is up-to-date with current laws.

Who needs to think about estate planning?

In short, everyone. In addition to a will, your estate plan will contain directives on what kind of life-saving healthcare you wish to receive, who can make decisions for you if you cannot, burial instructions, and other important designations that are important to have defined before you die or become incapacitated.

Also, anyone engaged in a family law matter or experiencing family changes should consider having their intentions and directives documented in a legal estate plan. People in the following situations have special considerations that need to be addressed in their estate plans:

  • Divorcing and divorced individuals
  • Domestic partners
  • Unmarried committed couples
  • Persons drafting relationship agreements
  • Single parents and co-parents
  • Anyone who remarries after a divorce
  • Legally separated couples
  • Same-sex couples

For unmarried couples, estate planning can help to ensure you and your partner have enforceable rights related to your relationship.

For individuals with concerns about the guardianship of minor children, working with estate planning lawyers can allow you to help guide events should the worst occur.

For individuals with assets they hope to pass to loved ones, estate planning attorneys can help to minimize the cost of estate taxes and, when prudent, probate.

Are there risks if I leave everything to my children?

Most people want their children to inherit their assets. However, children under the age of 18 cannot inherit. If you leave assets to any children who are minors, their legal guardian (your spouse, ex-spouse, or the children’s other legal parent) will likely control those assets until the children turn 18.

By drafting an enforceable estate plan, you can ensure that your assets are rightfully inherited and controlled by someone you choose.

For more information about wills and estate planning, see our Introduction to Estate Planning guide.