What is a Will and Why Do you Want One?
A Will (or Last Will and Testament) is a legal document that designates who you want to receive your property (known as your estate) after you die and who will be in charge of managing (or administering) your estate. By having a Will, you bypass the default state rules and you control where and how your assets are distributed.
In your Will, your beneficiaries can be whoever you want, including family members, friends, and charities. A Will also allows you to choose the personal representative of your estate to be in charge of settling your debts, filing and paying your taxes and distributing the rest of your assets to your beneficiaries.
You can also appoint a guardian of your minor children in your Will – while not always controlling, a court will look at who you choose as a main factor in ultimately decided who will look after your children.
Lastly, you can put language in your Will to reduce probate expenses at your death, such as waiving the requirement that your personal representative post a probate bond or filing an inventory or accounting.
So, while you will have to spend some money to work with an attorney to prepare your Will, you have the power to make those choices necessary to ensure there is a smooth transmission of your personal belongings to your loved one. Please contact us at NorthStar Law Group at (360) 292-4556 to schedule an appointment to get the estate planning process started.
What Happens if You Don’t Have a Will?
Believe it or not, everyone has an estate plan, but if you die without a Will, the laws of the state where you reside control who gets your property. In such case, who inherits your property may not be consistent with your wishes. Under Washington law, your spouse gets all of your community property (which are assets you acquired during your marriage) and one-half of your separate property (the assets you brought into the marriage or inherited). This may not how you want your estate to be divided.
Further, if you don’t have a Will, state law determines who has priority to serve as personal representative (sometimes known as an executor) to administer your estate. In such case, an estranged family member may be put in charge of settling your debts and distributing your assets, which can lead to unnecessary complications in the future.
Lastly, if you die without a Will, state law also controls who will be the legal guardian of your children. Again, someone you don’t trust (or even the state) can be placed in charge of caring for your children until they reach age 18.
Yes, getting a Will prepared will cost some money (and I don’t recommend using forms you can find on the internet for a lot of reasons). But, you can’t put a price tag on the time, money and emotional cost your family will save by you having already made a plan. Please contact us at NorthStar Law Group at (360) 292-4556 to schedule an appointment to get your estate plan in place.