What to Know During the Guardianship Nomination Process

What to Know During the Guardianship Nomination Process

If something happened to you and you were unable to take care of yourself or your children, who would step in? Ideally, it would be someone you chose. Nominating a guardian before something happens allows you to do just that.

What Is a Guardian?

Think back to school forms asking for a parent or legal guardian. A guardian is a person who takes care of someone else when that person is incompetent to handle their affairs on their own. This could be due to a serious injury or illness. When minor children are involved, they may need a guardian if both of their parents are incapacitated or pass away.

A guardianship will generally cover similar decisions to what a parent could make for a child — even when the person needing a guardian is an adult. This may include medical decisions and, for minors, other life decisions such as where to go to school.

Guardianships can also cover managing the person’s finances, but finances are sometimes broken up into a separate conservatorship. Exactly what a guardian or conservator can do will be spelled out when the court approves the guardianship or conservatorship.

How Is a Guardian Different From Godparents?

When your children were born or shortly after, you may have appointed godparents. Godparents are often expected to step in and take charge of the children if something happens to a parent, but appointing a godparent is largely a religious or ceremonial action. Godparents aren’t directly recognized under the law.

To give a godparent the legal authority to act, and avoid conflicts with other family members who may wish to step in instead, you will need to go through the legal process of appointing the godparents as guardians, trustees, or other legal roles.

How Is a Guardian Different from a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney might grant all of the powers that a guardian can exercise. The difference is mainly timing. You sign a power of attorney when you have full mental capacity. A guardian is only appointed after you’re incapacitated. Part of the guardianship appointment process can include reviewing the wishes you specified when you still had full mental capacity. However, a power of attorney cannot be executed if you have diminished mental capacity, and it may be voided if a court finds you lacked capacity when you signed it.

Because a power of attorney can be limited in scope based on how you had your lawyer word it, it may not cover all of the actions that need to be taken on your behalf. In those situations, a guardian would be appointed to fill in the gaps.

How Do You Select a Guardian for Yourself?

Like a person dying without a complete will, the law has default rules for how to select a guardian based on relationships and willingness to serve. The court will also consider the ability to do the job of each person who wants to be the guardian. This can lead to serious family conflicts and large legal bills when two family members wish to serve as the guardian and can’t come to an agreement.

To avoid these types of problems, you can nominate a guardian. The judge isn’t bound to follow your nomination but will give it great weight and will only overrule your nomination with a strong cause. The process is called nomination of guardian, and you can select any adult of sound mind. Like a will, the judge will review your selection to ensure you were mentally fit to make the decision and weren’t under duress or tricked into doing so.

How Do You Select a Guardian for Your Children?

The process for nominating a guardian for your children is similar to nominating a guardian for yourself. The only real difference is that it’s even more important to make your decision in advance so that your children can have a sense of stability and not be left hanging during long court battles.

You should, of course, also talk to potential guardians to see if they are willing to take on this responsibility. However, being nominated does not obligate the person to accept the judge’s appointment if the time ever comes. Therefore, you probably want to select at least one alternate.

Do You Need a Guardian If You Left a Trust for Your Children?

You may have set up a trust to provide for your children financially in case something happened to you. The trustee is then able to manage their financial affairs in accordance with the trust.

However, someone still needs to take custody of the children to manage their daily lives and important life decisions. This is where you need to nominate a guardian, and your estate planning documents should lay out the responsibilities of both the trustee and the guardian.

Who Supervises a Guardian?

Once appointed, a guardian must make regular reports to the court. This includes financial information as well as other major decisions. Other family members can also go to court to contest the guardianship if they believe the guardian is doing something improper.

What If There Is a Conflict Between a Guardianship and a Power of Attorney or Trust?

There should be no conflicts with a guardianship and power of attorney or trust because the court should appoint the guardian in consideration of other estate planning documents. The guardian should only carry out duties not already provided for. To avoid confusion, you should attach your other estate planning documents to your nomination of guardianship to ensure that the judge will be aware of their existence. If a power of attorney or trustee believes a guardian was appointed improperly or is going beyond their role, they can contest those actions in court.

Are There Downsides to Being a Guardian?

Whether a guardianship is for an adult or minor children, being appointed as a guardian is a major responsibility. Like a parent, it can mean making tough choices and sometimes needing to put the other person’s wellbeing before the guardian’s own. The nominated guardian will also need to go to court during the nomination process and will need to make ongoing reports to the court as long as they remain guardian. Being a guardian is a lifetime appointment unless the judge appoints someone else.

Does a Guardian Have to be Local?

A guardian can theoretically live anywhere in the world. However, the judge will want to make sure that the guardian will be able to effectively perform their responsibilities without being unduly impacted by long-distance. For minor children, since they will often go to live with the guardian, the judge may also consider how a move would impact their lives and their access to other family members. You can and should include your wishes on these issues in your planning documents so the judge can understand the choices you made and to avoid conflicts between family members.

If you’re relying on a long-distance guardian, you should also consider who will act in a sudden emergency such as you being rushed to a hospital. You may want to have an alternate power of attorney that gives a more nearby family member the power to act until your guardian is able to step in.

Who Pays for Legal Fees During Guardianship Proceedings?

Your appointed guardian should understand that they don’t have to take on legal costs. If you have liquid assets, the court will pay the attorneys reasonable fees from your funds — just like any other of your expenses would be handled. If you don’t have liquid assets, there is a special guardianship fund established by the government. In no cases does the appointed guardian pay for court fees, although you may wish to set aside money to cover other expenses they may face while acting as a guardian.

Please note that this is separate from creating your nomination of guardian documents. Those costs would be arranged between you and your attorney just like any other legal work.

How Quickly Can a Guardian Be Appointed?

Even for a nominated guardian who isn’t contested, the court process is usually measured in weeks if not months. During an emergency situation, your family could petition the court to appoint a temporary guardian pending full court review. This person could potentially be the guardian you nominated.

In more urgent circumstances, such as an emergency room doctor needing an immediate decision, any power of attorney or living will documents that you created and are readily available will be used. Otherwise, the hospital or other entity would attempt to contact your next of kin and follow their authority in accordance with local law.

Talk to an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney

To learn more about how nominating a guardian fits in with your estate planning strategy or to start the nomination process, talk to an experienced estate planning attorney at Lilac City Law today.

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Maximizing Tax Umbrellas for Estates

You have made it your life’s work to leave your family with substantial assets to provide for them after you are gone. Legacy is extremely difficult to build, but the estate tax law in the United States does not seem to take this into consideration.

Estate tax can rip as much as 40% of your family’s assets from them, depending on the value of your estate and its location in the country.

Right now is the time to protect your estate from federal and state taxes. If you take the time to create a well thought out plan, you can protect a great deal of the wealth than you have earned for your family.

Here are some powerful tips that you need to know.

Knowing Whether Your Estate Will Be Taxed

Estate taxes are not the same everywhere. Depending on the state you reside in, you do not have to be ultra-wealthy in order to be harshly taxed. Federal estate taxes have a minimum threshold that is in the million-dollar estate valuation, but states like Washington or Idaho can very easily tax middle-class families. If you are leaving behind any sort of investments, bank accounts, businesses, property or life insurance packages, the estate tax applies to you regardless of the size of that asset.

Also note, valuation is often subjective, and it is a discussion you should have with your estate planning attorney.  When it comes to estate taxes, you do not know whether the state will try to value your real estate or businesses higher than other sorts of appraisals – you should not leave it up to them to determine a fair valuation.

Geography is also something to take into account – if you live in a premium real estate location, just a couple of properties can push your entire estate value through the roof.  Sometimes this comes as a big surprise to the family after the passing of a loved one.  For example, the children of farmers often find themselves stuck with huge tax bills upon the death of a matriarch or patriarch because of the hidden value of the land on which the farm sits.

Providing Gifts and Charity the Smart Way

If you reduce the value of your estate through gifts to your children and grandchildren, that value cannot be counted against you for estate tax purposes. Every year, individuals save on the estate tax bill by giving away tens of thousands of dollars to their loved ones.

Moreover, making donations to charitable organizations is another great way to reduce your estate tax bill. These donations may also have an additional tax deduction attached to them. Donating to charity is a great way to ensure that the money you earn is used in the way that you prefer after you are gone.

Consult with your lawyer to learn how to maximize this benefit for your present taxes, as well as the ones that will impact your family after your passing.

Knowing When to Use Your Estate Tax Exemption

Everyone has a large (multimillion-dollar) tax exemption for estate taxes that can be used at any time, not only at the time of death. Knowing how to use the exemption can be an essential tool for reducing a tax bill before passing an asset on to a child.

So, what exactly is the estate tax exemption? Let’s say that you have an asset or an account that you expect to grow exponentially in the coming years. Right now, the value of that business is less than the estate tax minimum. In the future, you expect it to grow beyond this exemption. (In most cases, this type of asset will be a business.) Because you can use the lifetime exemption at any time, if you give away the business to a child or grandchild before it passes above the estate tax minimum limit, there will be no estate tax on the asset when you pass on.

Using a Trust Structure for Your Most Important and Valuable Assets

Establishing a trust is one of the best ways to avoid big out of pocket estate tax payments. Many people may hesitate at the idea of handing over large chunks of assets to others inside of a trust. However, the rules say that the person managing a trust can be a trusted family member, or even yourself.

A trust is one of the most sophisticated tax umbrella structures available to individuals. As such, it requires careful planning and coordination of care to establish & employ correctly. The type of trust that you choose can also make a difference.

If you are serious about preserving your legacy, it is essential that you craft your trusts with the right legal help.  

Using Life Insurance to Protect Your Assets

First, this is not financial advice.  However, life insurance is a conversation we often have with clients and there are certainly a lot of tie-ins to your insurance policies and a healthy estate plan. 

Some of the best life insurance policies, for high net worth individuals (HNWIs) for example, may include provisions for paying off any estate taxes that are due at the time of death. To enable this kind of benefit, you might want to, again, set up a trust.  Regardless, these financial maneuvers and plans should be discussed with your estate planning attorney. 

In short, using life insurance smartly is a great move for HNWIs who would be concerned about the effects of estate taxes on their heirs inheritance(s).

Additional Items to Consider Regarding Your Estate Taxes

Now that we have gone over a few strategies that you can employ to shield your assets from estate taxes, let’s go over a few things that you need to know so that you can go to your attorney as informed as possible.

  • A relatively new tax law (The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act) allows you to give away slightly over $11 million over your lifetime in gifts that will not be taxed subsequently on your estate. This law will only last until the end of 2025. After that, it will fall back to $5 million, meaning that anything more that you give away may get taxed by the IRS starting in 2026.
  • If you are able to get your gifts to your loved ones before 2025, the United States Treasury and the IRS are likely to allow those transfers to stay as tax-favored gifts.
  • However, depending on your situation, using the “step-up” basis may actually save your family more money. The step-up basis allows an asset to be valued at its cost basis at the time of passage rather than at the time of acquisition. Stepping up the cost basis wipes out any paper profit the asset may have generated in the past, reducing the basis for the estate tax.

What Is the Answer? Get the Help That You Need Right Now.

We are here to help you with properly managing and maximizing the tax umbrellas available to you for your estate.

Protecting your estate is an ongoing responsibility – one that will require experienced legal assistance for the entire process of establishing your estate plan and modifying it over the coming years and decades, as necessary.

If you are ready to protect your hard-earned lifetime work, contact us today!

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Planning Pitfalls: The Most Common Estate Planning Mistakes

The Most Common Estate Planning Mistakes to Watch Out For

Most people do not like to think about their eventual demise, and they certainly don’t like asking uneasy questions about estate planning.

In fact, 6 in 10 adults in the United States do not have a will or living trust.

And that is a problem, considering how many people want their assets to pass on to their loved ones after their death.

Here are some of the most common estate planning mistakes to avoid, and how an estate planning attorney can help you figure out the details. 

Not Understanding How Your Assets Will Pass

One of the most common mistakes that people make is not properly understanding how their assets will pass after their death. 

Many people believe that all of their assets can be passed through a last will and testament. But that is not true.

Certain assets cannot pass through your will at all, such as non-probate assets. These include:

  • Jointly-owned assets with rights of survivorship
  • Life insurance policies with a named beneficiary
  • Annuity contracts with a named beneficiary
  • Bank accounts with a payable-on-death beneficiary named
  • IRAs and other investment accounts for retirement
  • Accounts or property titled in the name of a trust

If an asset cannot pass through your will and there is no alternate plan in place, then it will have to go through probate court after your death–and in many cases, the cost of negotiating through probate court is higher than the value of the asset itself.

Blunders with Your Beneficiaries

The next most common mistake in estate planning is errors associated with beneficiaries. 

We could write a whole article about beneficiaries, but we have narrowed it down to two main problem areas: disabled loved ones and the so-called “problem child”.

The Disabled Loved One

If you have a disabled beneficiary, it is generally wise to work directly with an estate planning attorney to make plans for them.

Your goal here is twofold: you want to leave them an inheritance to protect them, but you also want to ensure that they still qualify for public assistance. 

To be clear: if you leave them an inheritance outright, they may be disqualified from receiving public assistance until they spend the inheritance down to the statutory limit. 

The Problem Child

The other side of the equation is the problem child. 

Ask yourself: realistically, how will your beneficiaries manage your assets after your death? Are they smart with money? Or do they waste it foolishly? 

If your beneficiaries tend to burn through money, that will help give you a sense of how the inheritance will be spent after you are gone, and whether there will be anything left to send your grandchildren to college.

Do not cross your fingers and hope for the best. If you want to leave assets to a beneficiary you know has problems, work with an attorney to develop a plan that can protect those assets from bad spending habits, creditors, or even divorcing spouses.

Having No Plan At All

But the biggest mistake of all? Having no estate plan whatsoever. 

You might think that your life and finances are relatively straightforward. And if your assets are minimal and straightforward, then it is fine for you not to have an estate plan.

Unfortunately, “simple and minimal” is not a phrase that applies to most people’s assets and finances.

If you have any kind of outstanding debt, any property, and more than one person left behind when you die, then the fact is that you need an estate plan. 

We get it. You do not like the prospect of dealing with end-of-life issues. But your family will be worse off if you die without any plan in place.

Avoid These Estate Planning Errors

There are a lot of common misconceptions about planning for the future. But you do not need to let them hold you back.

The key is having a plan. That is where we come in–we are experienced family estate planning attorneys that know how to help parents protect their most precious assets.

If you need help developing a plan, do not hesitate to get in touch today. 

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How Planning for Being Incapacitated Will Strengthen Your Whole Family & Estate Plan

When you think about it, planning your estate is not about dying. It’s about managing and protecting your assets, and who gets to control them, while you are living.

If you become incapacitated, having an incapacity plan in with your overall estate plan ensures that your best interests are clear. It also ensures your family is taken care of.

Why An Incapacity Plan?

If you become seriously ill or develop conditions affecting your memory, you may not be able to handle your finances without assistance. If you do not have a power of attorney, there could be a delay in handling essential matters such as paying a mortgage or filing taxes. Eventually, someone else will be appointed to manage your affairs, hopefully before you have done permanent damage to your estate.

To get ahead of these potentially catastrophic situations you can designate someone today to manage your affairs, care for you, seek treatment on your behalf, and generally make sure everything is handled how you would (or would have) handle them.

Build Your Plan

When you begin your estate planning, remember the following are essential documents that build your incapacity plan into your overall estate plan.

Living Trust

A revocable living trust is good to have for many reasons, including as security in the event you are ever incapacitated. All strong estate plans include a living trust.

In this trust document, you place assets such as your home, investments, and bank accounts. They move from your name to the trust’s name. You become both trustee and beneficiary.

You manage and use your assets as you always have. A living trust is revocable, which means you can change it later if you wish.

Your trust will list a successor trustee to step in if you die or become incapacitated. Your successor trustee is bound by the instructions you included in the trust.

He or she must manage your assets as you intended. When asked how to create an estate plan, attorneys often recommend living trusts because they provide peace of mind as well as financial protection.

Financial Power of Attorney

As mentioned earlier, the financial Power of Attorney (POA) appoints someone as your agent to pay bills and manage other financial matters. Even if you have a living trust, the POA provides extra securities.

Your POA can be durable, which means it can’t be revoked should you become incapacitated. It can also be springing, which means it doesn’t take effect unless you become incapacitated.

Estate planners understand and can explain the additional advantages of each type of POA.

Medical Power of Attorney

In some states, the medical POA is called a health care proxy or Designation of Patient Advocate (DPA). If you become incapacitated, it gives your chosen agent the authority to make medical decisions for you.

HIPAA Authorization

Federal laws known as th Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) are in place to protect your privacy and other patient rights. Medical providers often cannot share your medical information.

If you sign a HIPAA authorization, your medical team can communicate needed information to your family and medical POA.

Living Will

living will is not the same thing as a medical POA. A living will states your wishes when it comes to end-of-life care.

A living will is not enforceable in all states, but it allows you to convey critical information about your wishes should you become incapacitated and unable to express those wishes when it is time.

Contact Your Estate Planning Attorney

If your estate plan does not have all five of these documents, or if you do not already have an estate plan set up, it is time to talk to an estate planning attorney.

Contact Us today to get your estate plan and incapacity plan setup.

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Setup a Kid’s Protection Plan Today, Here’s How to Do It in Spokane, WA!

Setup a Kid’s Protection Plan Today, Here’s How to Do It in Spokane, WA!

When you started having children, the last thing you probably thought about was setting up a kid’s protection plan.

We do not like to be forced to think about a time when we may not be able to take care of children.

However, the sad reality is that for some, it does happen.

Setting up a kid’s protection plan, no matter what stage of parenting you are in, is a vital part of being a prepared parent.

Why It Is Important to Set Up a Kid’s Protection Plan

If something should happen that causes you to be unable to care for children and you do not have a kid’s protection plan set up, a judge will be the one who gets to decide where your children go.

There may be a family member that you do not want raising your children.  There may be a family friend that you trust and know will raise your child the way you want.

A judge will not know this, and your child may end up with someone who does not want the same things as you.

Another reason to set up a kid’s protection plan is so that any money or assets you have can go to the guardian you choose to take care of your children.  These assets can pay for education, necessities, etc.

If you leave it up to a judge, your assets and money may be tied up while the judge decides what to do with it.

How You Set Up a Kid’s Protection Plan

Setting up a kid’s protection plan can be done either on your own with templates you can find online, or you can hire an estate planning attorney to help you.

Set up a Kid’s Protection Plan Online

There are some places online that you can print out a template to help you name a guardian for your child.  These are good if you are taking a trip without your child and decided last minute to name someone to care for them in case of an emergency.

Your best option: This website will help you choose a guardian and will create a document naming your legal guardian.

Estate Planning Attorney

Directly contact an estate planning attorney that specializes in working with young families.  You will find that many estate planning attorneys tailor their services to end of life support.

We focus on young families and those who are determined to get ahead on estate planning.  Regardless of whom you choose to work with, the benefit of having a consult with an attorney for your kid’s protection plan is that you can ask questions, get answers, and tailor your plan to your specific needs and situation.

What Lilac City Law Can Do For You!

Lilac City Law will help you create a plan that works for you and your family.  We will sit down with you and go over each aspect of a kid’s protection plan and make sure you are comfortable with it before you leave.

The most important part of a kid’s protection plan is that you feel like everything will be ok if you ever need to use the plan we created with you.

If you live in or near Spokane and would like to set up a kid’s protection plan, contact us today!

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Setting up a Durable Power of Attorney in Washington State

Setting up a Durable Power of Attorney in Washington State

Setting up a Durable Power of Attorney in Washington State is pretty straightforward.

In this article is a brief description of what a Durable Power of Attorney actually is, as well as some specific rules that you must follow to set up a durable power of attorney in Washington State.

Durable Power of Attorney (POA) Explained

A durable power of attorney allows you to choose someone to handle your medical and financial needs.  It remains valid and in effect, if you become incapacitated and ends when you die or otherwise end the POA.  There are two types of durable power of attorneys.

Durable Power of Attorney for healthcare: The durable power of attorney for health care gives your designated agent the authority to make healthcare decisions on your behalf.

Durable Power of Attorney for finances: The durable power of attorney for finances gives your designated person the authority to make financial decisions on your behalf.

You can choose a person (known as your agent) to handle both the durable power of attorney for healthcare and the durable power of attorney for finances.  You may also choose different agents for each as long as they can work together (separate adult children for example).

For both powers of attorney, you also plan on an alternate agent.  This alternate agent would step in if the original person is unable to make decisions.

Powers of a Durable Power of Attorney in Washington State

A durable power of attorney in Washington state authorizes an agent to do the following on your behalf:

  • Make health care decisions for you
    • If you would like to have life-sustaining procedures withheld or withdrawn in the case of a terminal illness, you may also want to create a living will or advance directive to go along with your Power of Attorney.
  • Buy or sell items for you
  • Manage your business
  • Collect Debts
  • Invest money
  • Cash checks
  • Manage financial matters

Regulations for Washington State

There is no specific form you need to use for your POA for Washington State.  The only regulation is that the form or statement you use is notarized by a certified notary republic.  Most banks have a notary republic and are sometimes free if you are a customer.

After you and your agent(s) sign the documents in front of a notary, you want to make two copies.  The original will go to your agent, one copy will go to your alternate agent, and you will keep a copy for yourself.

Who Can Set up A Durable Power of Attorney in Washington State?

The following people can set up a durable power of attorney:

Estate planning attorney: You can use an estate planning attorney but do not have to by law. An attorney, like Lilac City Law, will customize your POA as part of your estate plan.

Loved one or trusted friend: Make sure you discuss with them what you want so that they can help you fill out the required paperwork accordingly.

Yourself: It is very important that you understand all decisions that you are making and what affects they will have before signing a legal document.  Be sure to choose a trusted person to act as your agent.  Most importantly, make sure they are willing to act as your agent.

We strongly suggest the first option above!   If you need assistance with your durable power of attorney, call our office today!

Contact Us, We’ll Help You Set Up Your Power of Attorney

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What to Expect From (and How to Prepare For) an Initial Estate Planning Meeting With Your Personal Family Lawyer®

What to Expect From (and How to Prepare For) an Initial Estate Planning Meeting With Your Personal Family Lawyer®

Whether you have met with an estate planning attorney before or it is your first time, it is important to understand how working with a Personal Family Lawyer® is different than meeting with a traditional lawyer.

This article will explain what is involved with such a consultation, and it may even inspire you to meet with us to get your estate planning started or updated. If you do decide to meet with us, I will share instructions on how you can do that, plus include a free offer at the end of this article to give you extra motivation to check us out.

Meet And Greet

Given our unique approach, initial consultation with our office is quite different than an initial consultation with a typical estate planning attorney. A typical “initial consultation” would be a meet-and-greet-type of meeting in which the lawyer tells you the documents you need to put in place and quotes you a fee to provide those documents.

In such a meeting, however, it will likely be difficult for you to know exactly what you need for your unique family situation and how to make the right decision, outside of simply considering whether the cost of these documents fits within your budget or not. Unfortunately, deciding what you need based solely on the cost of documents will likely lead you to make choices that will not actually serve and protect your family and assets.

Family Wealth Planning Session™

In contrast, our initial meeting with you is a two-hour working session, called a Family Wealth Planning Session™. Prior to the Family Wealth Planning Session, we will send you a personalized package of materials that will guide you in locating and listing each of your assets.

What we consistently see is that surprisingly, many people do not have a clear awareness of what they own or where to find their assets. This is the reason there are more than $58 Billion (yes, Billion with a “B”) of lost and unclaimed assets held by state and federal agencies. Often times people become incapacitated or die, and their family simply overlooks these assets.

We know you have not devoted years of your precious time and energy to build your family wealth only for your heirs to lose track of it when something happens to you. That is one reason the Family Wealth Planning Session is so beneficial. Whether you decide to create a full plan or just redesign the one you have, at the very least your family will know what you have and how to locate it should anything happen to you.

Game Planning Contingencies

Also during your Family Wealth Planning Session, we will guide you through a complete understanding of what would happen to everyone you love and everything you own should something happen to you—whether it is under your current plan or the plan the state has for you if you do not have an estate plan yet. From there, you can decide if that plan is how you want things handled or if you would want a different outcome, in which case we can design a plan to ensure things go exactly the way you want in your absence.

Finally, if you do decide to create a plan or redesign an existing one, you can select the type of plan you want based on the different packages we have created, which allow you to literally choose your fee based on what is most important to you, what is not important to you, and with a clear understanding of the impact of your choices.

The Family Wealth Planning Session is a true educational opportunity for you to ensure you are doing the right thing by your loved ones. This investment of your time now will save your family countless hours of heartache and work down the road, while also keeping them out of conflict and out of court.

Unfortunately, death is unavoidable. But you can make it far easier on the people you love by the choices you make now. And facing the reality of this fact today allows you to make choices that will let you enjoy your life even more. Indeed, our clients report a huge level of relief after meeting with us, and they frequently say they wished they had done it sooner.

Setting Up Your Family Wealth Planning Session

We would love to meet with you for a Family Wealth Planning Session. Normally, we charge $750 for these working sessions, but if you are one of the first five families to schedule this month, you commit to doing the homework ahead of time, and you secure your Session with a credit card (which will not be charged as long as you do your part), we will waive that Planning Session fee.

Simply fill out the contact form below or give us a call to get scheduled. Or if you have a relative or friend who would benefit by getting their affairs in order, pass along this article and tell them to call us. It is our mission to keep the families in our community out of court and out of conflict, and it all starts with a Family Wealth Planning Session. Because, really, your family IS worth it.

Claim Your Free Family Wealth Planning Session!

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The Lilac City Law Difference

We do not just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That is why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session,™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.

What Legal Documents Do I Need for my Estate Plan?

What Legal Documents Do I Need for my Estate Plan?

When setting up an estate plan, you may find yourself needing to find a lot of different documents. If you are using an estate planning attorney, you might find yourself asking, “What legal documents do I need?”  And more to the point, “what do I need to prepare these documents?”

To help you, we have compiled a list of documents you are going to need for each part of the estate planning process. 

Not everyone will need each part so don’t worry if you see something that you are not doing.  Feel free to contact us if you have any questions. 

Living Will

A living will is also known as an advance care directive.  A living will is only valid while you are alive.  It states your wishes for end of life medical care in case you are unable to communicate your decisions.  You can set up the living will to take effect either as soon as it is signed or it can be set up to only begin as soon as you are unable to communicate your wishes.  The requirements for a living will vary from state to state, so your best option is to hire an estate planning attorney to help you.  Legal documents you will need for your living will are:

  • Beneficiary informationLegal names, Contact information, Social Security, and Birth Certificate/adoption papers (for minor children).
  • Asset InformationCopy of the deed for your house or other real estate, titles for all vehicles, bank statements, retirement paperwork, paperwork related to investments, and any paperwork from an appraiser if you have any valuable personal property you want to be left to a specific beneficiary.
  • Debt Informationdocuments relating to your mortgage, car loans, student loans, and consumer debt.
  • Executor and Guardian InformationNames and contact information for anyone you name an executor or guardian.

Durable Power of Attorney for Finances

A Durable Power of Attorney for Finances allows you to name a trusted person to be able to make decisions about your finances should you become incapacitated.  If you do not have a Durable Power of Attorney for finances, then your loved ones will have to go to court and ask for the ability to make financial decisions.  Legal documents you will need for your living will are:

  • Durable Power of Attorney FormMust be filled out, signed, and notarized (for Washington state, requirements vary from state to state).
  • Attorney-in-fact contact informationContact information and legal name(s) for anyone you name to make decisions for you.

Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care

A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care allows you to name someone to make health care decisions for you should you become incapacitated. It also allows you to voice what you want if you become incapacitated. Legal documents you will need for your living will are:

  • Durable Power of Attorney FormMust be filled out, signed, and notarized (for Washington state, requirements vary from state to state).
  • Attorney-in-fact contact informationContact information and legal name(s) for anyone you name to make decisions for you.

Last Will and Testament

You last will and testament is a legal document that allows you to say how your estate will be distributed after you die.  It will also allow you to name a guardian for your minor children if you have any and also what will happen to your pets. Legal documents you will need for your living will are:

  • Family DocumentsPrenuptial agreements, marriage certificates, divorce decrees, existing will and trust documents if you have them, adoption certificates (if applicable), and findings of your disability or of family members.
  • Business documents Partnership agreements, trade name registrations, and documents files to establish a corporation.
  • Real Estate DocumentsDeeds, real estate trust documents, and deeds of life estates or leases.
  • Account StatementsBank, retirement, and investment accounts.

Living Trust

There are two types of living trusts; Revocable (can be changed) and Irrevocable (cannot be changed).  Unlike a will, a living trust will ensure that property left through the trust will not have to go into probate.  When it goes through probate, it can take months to be settled and sometimes cost as much as 5% of the assets to pay for lawyers.  Not everyone has to be concerned about probate, and some people may not need a trust at all.  You can speak with an estate planning attorney to find out if you need a living trust.  Legal documents you will need for your living will are:

  • Beneficiary informationLegal names, Contact information, Social Security, and Birth Certificate/adoption papers (for minor children).
  • Asset InformationCopy of the deed for your house or other real estate, titles for all vehicles, bank statements, retirement paperwork, paperwork related to investments, and any paperwork from an appraiser if you have any valuable personal property you want to be left to a specific beneficiary. You only need documents for the property you will be putting into the living trust.
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Break Down Estate Planning By Using These Worksheets

Break Down Estate Planning By Using These Worksheets

Estate planning is not something you are probably thinking about… especially if you are decades out from retirement. 

It is one of those things we all know we should do but don’t think about until we are much older. 

Sometimes, sadly, we do not think about it until it is too late.

However, regardless of where you are in life, you should have an estate plan set up.

So where do you start?  Get yourself educated, informed, and start getting to know your assets and options as soon as possible.  Here are some tools to help you understand and get started with estate planning.

Checklist & Asset Inventory

Motley Fool Green Light has an excellent checklist as well as worksheets to help you gather all of your information into one place.  You will need to print it out in order to fill it out.  You can find that “Estate plan Papers to Gather” checklist here.

You can also find an asset inventory from Charles Schwab that helps you list out all of your assets, personal information, and beneficiaries.  This form you can either print out and fill out as needed.  The Charles Schwab asset inventory can be downloaded here. (Download link not working anymore, contact us for a helpful form!)

Living Will

A living will is also known as an advance care directive.  A living will is only valid while you are alive.  It states your wishes for end of life medical care in case you are unable to communicate your decisions.  You can set up the living will to take effect either as soon as it is signed or it can be set up to only begin as soon as you are unable to communicate your wishes.  The requirements for a living will vary from state to state so your best option is to hire an estate planning attorney to help you.  Be wary about do it yourself wills, here is why.

You can find informative pamphlets and a living will worksheet and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care worksheet from Providence Washington, here.

Durable Power of Attorney (Finances and Health)

A Durable Power of Attorney for Finances allows you to name a trusted person to be able to make decisions about your finances should you become incapacitated.  If you do not have a Durable Power of Attorney for finances, then your loved ones will have to go to court and ask for the ability to make financial decisions on your behalf.  You can find a durable power of attorney for finances worksheet here.

A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care allows you to name someone to make health care decisions for you should you become incapacitated. It also allows you to voice what you want if you become incapacitated.

Last Will and Testament

You last will and testament is a legal document that allows you to say how your estate will be distributed after you die.  It will also allow you to name a guardian for your minor children if you have any and also what will happen to your pets.

Read this article about DIY last wills and testaments.

Living Trust

There are two types of living trusts; Revocable (can be changed) and Irrevocable (cannot be changed).  Unlike a will, a living trust will ensure that property left through the trust will not have to go into probate.

Here is an article about the differences between Wills and Living Trusts.

When it goes through probate, it can take months to be settled and sometimes cost as much as 5% of the assets to pay for lawyers.  Not everyone has to be concerned about probate, and some people may not need a trust at all.  You can speak with an estate planning attorney to find out if you need a living trust. Sources:

Make Sense of All These Worksheets
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Who Can Help Create a Durable Power of Attorney in WA State

Who Can Help Create a Durable Power of Attorney in WA State

Most of us do not like to think about it, but what happens if we are unable to make our own decisions regarding our health and finances? Who is going to make those decisions for us? Are the decisions being made what we would decide if we could? Having a durable power of attorney in Washington state is the best way to ensure decisions are being made the way you would want them to be.

What is a Durable Power of Attorney?

A durable power of attorney (DPOA) is a legally binding document naming an individual or individuals (called an agent) to make health care, financial, and end-of-life decisions for another person. All adults should have one of these in the event there is an accident or sudden death.

A durable power of attorney in Washington state authorizes an agent to:

  • Make health care decisions for you or your minor children
    • If you would like to have life-sustaining procedures withheld or withdrawn in the case of a terminal illness, you may also want to create a living will or advance directive to go along with your Power of Attorney.
  • Buy or sell items for you
  • Manage your business
  • Collect Debts
  • Invest money
  • Cash checks
  • Manage financial matters
  • Sue on behalf of the principal

You do not have to include all above items. You can personalize your durable power of attorney to fit what you need or want in the event someone needs to make decisions for you. Limiting it to just being able to sign on your behalf if you become unable is an example of that. Your agent can not, however, act on your behalf after you die. A durable power of attorney is not a substitute for a will and will terminate upon your death or on a specific date if you so choose.

A durable power of attorney in Washington State must be notarized. After it is notarized, you want to give the original to your agent(s) and keep a copy for yourself.

Who Can Help Create a Durable Power of Attorney in WA state?

The fact that a durable power of attorney is a legal document may make some people shy away from creating one because they think that it will be difficult. You can get help to create a durable power of attorney in Washington State.

Estate Planning Attorney

You can use an estate planning attorney but do not have to by law. Using a legal professional can simplify the process and answer any questions you may have. It is very important that you understand all decisions that you are making and what affects they will have before signing a legal document. An attorney can also make your DPOA individualized. There are forms on the internet that can be printed, but they are very broad.

Loved One or Trusted Friend

Having a family member help you create a durable power of attorney is another option. Make sure you discuss with them what you want so that they can help you fill out the required paperwork accordingly. If the person helping you is going to be your agent, make sure they agree to your wishes before asking them.

Yourself

If you feel comfortable enough, you can fill out your own DPOA without help. Make sure you understand the document and what it is asking. Be sure to choose a trusted person to act as your agent. Most importantly, make sure they are willing to act as your agent.

Having durable power of attorney is an important step in your future. It can be hard emotionally and mentally fill out. Remember, if you do not feel comfortable doing it yourself you can contact an attorney to help you.

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A Young Family's Guide to a Rock Solid Estate Plan

A Young Family’s Guide to a Rock Solid Estate Plan