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.

Contact

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

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!

Contact

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

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. 

Contact

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

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!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

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.
Finish Your Plan!  Contact an Estate Planning Attorney Today…

Contact

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

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
Contact An Estate Planning Attorney Today!

Contact

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

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.

More Reading

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

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

What is the Value of a Cheap Estate Plan?

What is the Value of a Cheap Estate Plan?

Here are five reasons why shopping for a cheap estate plan is likely to leave you with a plan that won’t work for your family and will leave them with a big mess instead.

Bargain Hunting is Not Always a Good Deal

The least expensive plan is not always even worth the paper it is written on. This point is especially true once you have left the attorney’s office. Once you have an estate plan in place, your life changes, the law changes, and your assets change over time; your plan needs to keep up with those changes. You might get the bargain plan for a great price today, but what good is it if it does not work tomorrow?

The truth of the matter is that a lawyer pushing a bargain plan cannot afford to provide much more than the documents alone, that the plan is printed on. You should be working with an attorney that has spent time and effort to lay out a comprehensive plan that works for you the minute you walk out the door and grows with you over time.

If you are hiring an estate planning attorney, hire them for their expertise, and the effort they will put into making a custom estate plan for you.

Cheap Estate Plans are Typically Not Customized

Cheap estate plans are often sold by financial professionals who want to get their hands on your money, not do right by your family.
An attorney who has built a practice focused on actually serving your family will not and cannot, in their best interests, make a living selling $399 plans.

Insurance and financial professionals often get paid commissions to sell your families annuities and life insurance products. Buyer beware!

An Estate Plan That Isn’t Customized is a Poor Plan

Generic forms and documents will not be there for your family when you cannot be — you want to leave your loved one’s a relationship with a trusted advisor. An advisor that you have built a relationship with during your lifetime and who has met the people in your plan and understands your desires and your family’s needs. Ideally, a person, an estate planning attorney, that your family already know and trust.

You will not get this from a generic document template printed at a financial advisor’s office twenty years ago.

Your Family Gets What You Pay For, or What You Don’t…

My colleague’s father in law died after paying for an inadequate estate plan. He wanted to set up his estate plan so that his family would not have to deal with the probate court or his ex-wife after his death. Yet, that is exactly what happened when he died! When he died, his family was in court and dealing with his ex-wife… Why?

His needs were not taken care of because the law firm he hired was a traditional “forms and documents” firm.

They, the firm, had him fill out forms and called that a plan. They did not make sure his assets were owned in the right way, or the plan stayed up to date over time.

You might think that is malpractice, but it is not. It is actually common practice. If you are not careful with your estate plans, they may not hurt you, but they will leave your family at risk if and when something happens to you!

An Estate Plan Is Not a Set-It and Forget It Kind of Thing!

Your estate plan needs to stay up to date with changes in your life, the law, and your assets. Moreover, did you know, there’s currently more than $1,000,000,000.00 (1 billion) in unclaimed property held by our state? It typically gets to become state managed unclaimed property when someone dies or becomes incapacitated, and their family loses track of it.

You can imagine families do not do this on purpose! However, when assets are not tracked very well during someone’s life, they are often never known about after their death by those that would inherit them. And that is just one way your family loses out. If you have shopped around for a cheap estate plan rather than getting in place a plan that works for the people you love, losing track of assets is just the tip of the iceberg of things that could be lost or forgotten.

It is Never Too Late to Get a Great Estate Plan In Place, Act Today!

If you already have an estate plan in place and you are concerned, you may have gotten a cheap estate plan that will not adequately serve your family when they need it most, contact us for a plan review.

You can either have us do it for you, or you save some money by doing it yourself with our guidance and then come in to discuss what you discovered along the way.

Contact us at 509-624-1610 to schedule OR email our client service director to get on our calendar.

Alternatively, you can fill out our Contact Us form below!


Contact Us To Setup Your Custom Estate Plan Today!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


We begin our planning process with a Family Wealth Planning Session, during which you will become more financially organized than you ever have been. You will also finally be in a place to make informed, educated choices about the right plan for your family based on the things that matter, instead of just shopping around by price.

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

If you are under 40 years old, the chances of you have thought about, or even pursuing estate planning is pretty small. However, something brought you here, and that means you are on your way to changing the way you look at planning your future!

The exploration of life planning that brought you here is the reason we started doing estate planning for families here at Lilac City Law in the first place. We believe that the best time for you to set up an incredible estate plan is when you are young; maybe even before you have children! So, where we begin this exploration in estate and life planning?

What step do you take first to get you from realizing an estate plan makes sense, protects you and your family, and is something you can do regardless of your asset profile?

Let’s look at the path to estate planning, step-by-step, and help you get prepared to engage with an estate planning attorney who has already established some basic fluency in this topic.

Estate Plan: The First Step, Get Started

Probably the best thing to know about starting an estate plan is the first step can be free. Set up your Protection Plan. This action alone knocks off several of the items we are going to be discussing later in this article. You can do set up your free protection plan here. Moreover, if something happens to you or your family while you are working on the rest of your plan, you will be set up with at least some security.

Get Started Here – Set Up Your Protection Plan

Estate Plan: The Second Step, Read Wear Clean Underwear

We cannot recommend enough grabbing a copy of Wear Clean Underwear. This book breaks down the reasons why you should be considering an estate plan in incredible detail. From the very beginning, you get to choose your adventure and see how common life scenarios play out depending on what estate planning decisions you make. If there is a list of books you should be giving new families, this book should be high on that list.

Estate Plan: The Third Step, Get Familiar with Estate Planning Items

If you completed step 1 above, awesome! Hopefully, you have step 2 bookmarked, now. And now for the third step, review the following fundamental elements of a comprehensive estate plan.

Estate Plan: Establish Your Last Will & Testament

When most people think about life planning, and how to set up their family after their passing, they think about establishing a will. A will is often more formally titled, a Last Will and Testament. But what is it? And, why do you want one, or need one?

A Last Will and Testament helps you to direct the transition of your assets to family members, friends, or whomever else after you pass away. It is almost always a formal legal document; however, there are cases where a court has upheld a will etched on to the paint of a tractor, and there are indeed other extreme examples of last-minute wills. For the sake of estate planning, we are sticking to a document you draft with your family and your estate planning attorney though! 🙂

The benefits of a Last Will and Testament are that they can cover items that a living trust may not cover. With a Trust, you are trying to transfer assets without having to go through the process of probate. Probate is costly and can be bypassed to a great extent with estate planning. However, you will not be able to continuously transfer all your assets to a Trust, no matter how diligent you are. A Last Will and Testament will help you here by covering things you have left out of your trust either by accident or on purpose.

In addition to unaddressed assets, a Trust cannot declare who will be the final guardian of your children in the event of an untimely passing. This contingency, in particular, is something your Last Will and Testament will spell out explicitly. Moreover, this scenario is also why you would benefit from working with an excellent estate planning attorney to set it up. Read the book we talked about in step two to see why, for your kids’ sake, this is something you want to work through in extensive detail.

Estate Plan: Advanced Health Care Directive

An advanced health care directive is a document in which you can set down your end-of-life preferences. You can also appoint someone in your directive to act on your behalf in making health care decisions for you, assuming you cannot make them for yourself.

Without a health care directive, your end of life care may be decided by doctors who do not know you and are unable to get your direct consent to treat (or not to treat).

An advanced directive is also often called a living will.

Estate Plan: Health & Financial Powers of Attorney

If it comes to pass that you are unable to manage your finances, or direct your self-care, who will take care of those things? If your spouse or partner is your #1 choice, that is a great plan. But, what if they are not able to help you out? Maybe they passed away, you split up, or they are simply out of town when something happens?

Health & Financial Powers of Attorney enable someone you trust to both acts on your behalf financially and in health care decisions for you. These Powers of Attorney (POA) also allow your designee to obtain information on your behalf. We wrote a great article on how this can work well, and how things can go sideways without these documents. It is worth a read, here.

Estate Plan: Kids Protection Plan

A Kids’ Protection Plan is not necessarily one static document. Instead, it is probably best looked at as the state of your estate and family planning. Are your kids set up to be taken care of if you pass before they are grown?

While you are exploring estate planning, this is something you want to get set up as soon as reasonably possible. Meaning, to start, we should not make the perfect the enemy of the good. Get a basic kids protection plan set up, here. The basic plan will give you and your family some level of protection as you work through the more granular aspects of estate planning.

Eventually, you will want to establish custody rights in your Last Will & Testament. Likewise, you will want to set up how your assets will transfer to your children if that is your desire. Also, you will want to set up many other things with other steps we talk about in this article.

So, step one for kids’ protection, keep them out of the custody of the state, get a guardianship set up here.  Step 2 ~ 100, talk to an estate planning attorney.

Estate Plan: Final Arrangements Plan

The particulars of your final arrangments are likely to be as unique as you are! However, the broad strokes things you might want to cover and leave in a place where your family can find them, include:

Your desire for what will happen to your body. Do you want your remains to be buried or cremated? Are you ok with embalming?

Do you have a preference on who will be handling your remains for burial or cremation? Have you worked with a specific mortuary in the past? Do you already have arrangments with them to take care of you?

Where will you be buried, interred, or placed? Is there a particular cemetery or location you have in mind? Are there actions you wish to be taken at that event?

If you are a Veteran and want to be interred at a National Cemetery, do you have a copy of your DD214 available and the number for the National Cemetery Administration ready for your family or caretakers to quickly make arrangments?

Have you already made provisions for a casket? Do you wish a certain type of casket or container be used? How do you want this to be paid, if you have not already paid for it? Do you want an open or closed casket funeral, if the choice is available?

Who will be your pallbearers? How do you want to be transported to your final resting place? Who will scatter your ashes, and in what way? Do you have funeral preferences?

Is there a marker you wish placed on your final resting place; a gravestone? Alternatively, a particular engraving to go on whatever marker you have set up?

Estate Plan: Business Documents

If you are a business owner, you might have given some thought to what you want to happen to your business if you are not around to operate it anymore. Even if you have not, it is probably a good idea to establish some contingencies. Exactly how the contingencies are setup will be predicated on many factors, including business structure, partners, debt, industry, products, and a million other things.

The best bet here is to talk to an estate planning attorney and work through a planning process. What do you want to happen; a transfer of ownership? A sale of the business (who will the proceeds go to)? We are scratching the surface on this issue, but the important thing to remember is that all your plans for your business can be worked out in advance; you just need to start the process today.

Estate Plan: Insurance Policies

Do you have life insurance setup? We are not writing this article to tell you whether to do so or not; we only want you to be able to help you transfer all your assets and investments where they are supposed to go. To do that, you will need to have a list of your insurance policies ready and the individual procedures and points of contact setup at those policies.

Don’t forget that credit cards and other items that might involve debt often have the option to provide life insurance too! You may have a policy set up that you did not even realize you had!

Regardless, get your plans laid out for your family to work through, get your beneficiaries lined up, and establish a plan for transferring the payout to whomever you wish to designate.

Estate Plan: Tax Materials

Owing taxes after your passing is maybe the ultimate injury to insult! However, if you own property your property will remain after your passing, and the taxes will too, sadly. Your beneficiaries will need to be instructed on how, when, and whom to pay taxes. They may also need a historical account of your taxes, for any number of reasons.

Estate Plan: Investments & Accounts

While you are getting your insurance and tax documents in order, you should be laying out any investments and bank accounts you might have as well. This list will be very helpful for your financial power of attorney, and/or your family when you pass.

It is important to think about this as more than your bank accounts too. Don’t forget 401k, stocks, bonds, bitcoins, IRA’s and other forms of investment.

Estate Plan: Trusts in Addition to Last Wills and Testaments

We covered Trusts, as they relate to Wills, earlier in this article. In many ways, Trusts and wills seek to fulfill the same ends but by very different means. Whereas a Will grants property and assets to a designee, it is often more open-ended. It is also far more restrictive in updating.  Here’s another article that compares the two as well.

If you need to amend a Will, you either have to go through a public court proceeding, or you have to scrap it all and start over. The thing is if you create a Will years or even decades before your passing and you intend it to speak to every aspect of your estate, it will be very open to interpretation. This point is where a probate court will come in, and on top of taking a hefty portion of your estate value in fees, the court will seek to interpret your will. Do you want someone who does not know you to understand the intentions that you put on paper 20 years ago? < This is where a Trust can help and work in tandem with your will.

You can use a trust to pass specific assets on to a beneficiary, bypassing probate entirely. Moreover, if you avoid probate through establishing a trust, you keep the details of your asset profile out of public records. This benefit in itself is self-evident. If you value the potential information on your children’s assets to be kept private from unscrupulous “advisors,” transferring those assets in a trust is one way to go. Can you tell we value privacy?

Lastly, a trust is easy to update, especially in comparison to a Last Will and Testament. A phone call to your estate attorney once a quarter and you will have a trust that is ready to be executed once the parameters you have decreed have been established. You can read more about how a trust is implemented in this article from our blog.

Estate Plan: Contact Sheets

Does your sister in law have your babysitter’s contact information? How about your parents, do they know how to get ahold of your spouse’s cousin who lives next door? It is imperative that you have contact sheets created for key points of contact, and that those contact sheets are readily available.

More to this point, you will want to have a procedure set up for what happens if the way someone learns something has happened to you is that you haven’t come home. Do they call the police first? Do they call your neighbor who knows your children’s guardianship plan and has access to it?

Again, read this book – free with this offer, to see why this is so very important. Then contact an estate planning attorney to get the ball rolling on this.

Estate Plan: Passwords & Account Information

How secure is your Facebook account? Does anyone else have your password? Your spouse, your kids? You would probably know because if they did, they would no-doubt be posting practical jokes all the time from your account, right?

Kidding aside, it makes a lot of sense why you wouldn’t share your social media, email, or other account passwords with someone else. Why would you even have a password if you started sharing it? Plus, passwords now have to change often anyway, so keeping a physical and updated copy can be a challenge.

The solution here might depend on your preferences. Whether it is a physical sheet of paper you keep in a safe place, or an Application you install on your smartphone, it is a good idea to have some way for those you care about to be able to access your important accounts in an emergency, or after you pass.

Estate Plan: Emergency Cash

Have you ever thought of storing some cash in your mattress? Ok, well maybe somewhere a bit more secure… The point being, you do not know what will be the emergency that makes your estate plan necessary. In actuality, there may be several emergencies throughout your life that part of your estate plan becomes necessary to address.

Part of what makes a rock solid estate plan so comprehensive is that it addresses as best as possible all those nebulous potentialities. The estate plan is specific where it needs to be, but flexible enough to handle the unknowable unknowns. In regards to flexibility, cash is king.

Cash is immeasurably useful; it is easy to transfer (hand it over). It is accepted universally. It can be easily secured. Also, you do not need anyone’s help to build a small but capable emergency stash, just in case you need it someday. Make sure cash is part of your emergency estate planning, and make sure it is readily available.

Estate Plan: A Photographic Itemizations of Assets

This idea crosses over into good insurance practice too. You can describe your assets in great detail, but as it has been said, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

Keep a photo diary or photo catalog of your assets. It may come to pass that your desire to transfer certain assets might not be as descriptive as necessary if there is some contention. If however, you include a picture of that property, as well as a description of it, you leave a whole lot less up for doubt.

Plus, as we said a second ago, keeping photos of your assets is helpful for insurance purposes too. So, it just is a good, and cheap, safety measure to incorporate into your regular estate planning.

Estate Plan: Photos & Recording of Yourself!

While you are thinking about pictures, you may want to put some physical pictures away in a safe too. Or at the least, start uploading them to the cloud via Dropbox. Another option is using several USB sticks.

Why would you want to do this? For your family, your kids in particular. This idea depends on how much you wish to leave behind for your family to know you by. Many families create these digital memories and never need them. They send them with their kids when they leave home or watch them with them at their milestone birthdays; which is also pretty awesome! However, some families will have these become part of their record to their children of who they were when they were alive.

In the end, photos and recordings of yourself are not necessary for your estate plan. But, they are a touching gesture for your family, should you pass.

Estate Plan: Store Your Estate Plan in Different Places

Lastly, in our rundown of estate plan musts, store your plan in several places. Or at the very least, store it in one very secure place. This plan is going to be important to your family at some point. If it is when you have passed, you will not be able to tell them where or how to access it, if you moved it.

In fact, you might have lost a physical copy of your plan due to an accident, a fire, moving, or something else. It happens! Keep the details of your plan safe.

Estate Plan: The Most Important Last Piece

One option for this is to work with an estate planning attorney. Once they find out that your plan is necessary, they will immediately become part of the team to triage your needs and the needs of your family. Do you have a guardianship plan, so your kids do not end up wards of the state? If so, your estate planning attorney will know where it is, how it works, the limits and rights it grants, and how to execute it immediately.

On top of everything else we discussed in this article, having a trusted advisor in the form of an estate planning attorney is the most important “must have” in this entire article.

You can contact Lilac City Law, here.  Or fill out the form below.   Find out why we are rated 5/5 stars on Google!

How To Choose An Estate Planning Attorney

HOW TO CHOOSE AN ESTATE PLANNING ATTORNEY

 

In addition to this blog, there are hundreds of programs out there to help you in planning various parts of your estate.  However, estate planning is much more than filling in your name in a computer program and having a document printed on your computer. 

A rock solid estate plan requires having someone who knows each and every detail, roadblock, and hiccup, to support and guide you through each step of the way.  

If you’ve decided that now is the time to get your estate plans in order, you should be asking, “How do I choose an estate planning attorney?” 

To help you answer that question, we came up with this list of things you should consider when evaluating who you want to work with to set up your estate plan.


Ask Yourself if You Need an Estate Planning Attorney

The first question you should be asking yourself is: “Do I need an attorney to settle and organize my estate and financial assets or can I handle this on my own?”

This question can be answered by looking at the current state of your own assets and at where you plan to be in the future.  If you currently have limited assets, you may just want to set up a brief consultation with an estate planning attorney.  Many estate planning attorneys have close ties with financial advisors.

An estate plan has a lot of parts, even if it’s a plan for who should watch after your family should you have one, a good estate planning attorney will help you get things in order.

 

Create Lists

A simple Google search of estate planning attorneys will return dozens of local results.  So how do you differentiate between attorneys?

One great way to start from scratch is by making a list of what you want in an attorney.  You might want an attorney that is: experienced, knowledgeable about your current situation, has references, etc.  Whatever it is that’s important to you, put it on your list. Pick a couple of attorneys that you feel might be a good fit, and refer to your list when asking them questions, evaluating their blogs and materials, and deciding who you would rather work with.

 

In the end, you can work with any number of estate planning attorneys, you have a great deal of latitude because of this.  You might as well take the time to make a good decision, you may be working with this attorney for some time.

 


Checklist: Six Must Have Items in Any Estate Plan


 

 

Interview the Estate Planning Attorney over the Phone

A phone conversation will go a long way in helping to clear any doubts you may have regarding a specific estate planning attorney.  Before setting up a phone consultation, prepare a list of questions you have in mind so that nothing is left unasked or unanswered. A key factor here is to assess the quality and quantity of the time the attorney is able to provide you in answering your questions.  Are they able and willing to provide you answers that satisfy you?  And are they taking the time to understand your questions and needs?

 

Set up a Meeting

Whether you’re planning to go with a specific attorney already, or you’re still not sure who you want to work with, nothing beats a face to face discussion for evaluating who you want to work with. Like the phone conversation, you will want to prepare questions so that you make maximum use of your time.  You may also want to review the attorney’s website, blog, and even a YouTube channel so that you already have an impression of who they are prior to meeting with them.

Some estate planning attorneys offer incentives to actually set up a face to face meeting.  You should reach out to them and see how they prefer to do business.   Lastly, it goes without saying, you probably want to stay local!  While a nationwide firm might prepare 5000 plans a year, you’ll get much more direct and customized attention (as well as face time) with an estate planning attorney that specializes in the laws where you live.

 


Schedule your estate plan consultation today!


 

Contact

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.