It is a good idea to have a will of your own in Washington State if you want to make things easier on your family when you pass away. A will is a legal document in which you appoint a personal representative to manage your affairs, name who will care for your children, provide specific gifts to individuals, give burial instructions or even provide instructions for a trust within a will called a testamentary trust for minors or a special needs trust for those who cannot manage inheritances on their own. A will may also allow an individual to specifically disinherit people or give instructions for those who should not be named as a personal representative.
If I Have a Will, Who Should I Name As My Personal Representative?
The person you name as your personal representative should be reliable, responsible, willing and able to carry out the terms of your will and able to navigate the probate process should the need arise. In Washington State any estate that includes assets of more than $100,000 must go through probate. The personal representative duties include paying creditors, filing the will in court as part of a probate if necessary, making distributions of assets to heirs, and liquidating property. This person, often with the help of a probate attorney will be the point of contact for creditors and heirs of the estate.
What If I Don’t Have a Will?
If you don’t have a will at the time of your death then you will die intestate. This means that the family members and friends will need to decide what your wishes were as to your estate and if there is disagreement it could cause litigation within the probate court. Not having a will at the time of death may also cause confusion in terms of who will inherit which assets, who will be the guardian of your children or who will be the personal representative of your estate. Having a will should be as much for you as it is for your family to make sure your passing does not cause a burden or in fighting among family. Any disputes as to succession or inheritances will ultimately be settled by state law, so if there are any specific gifts to friends or family that you wish to be made, you should be sure that you list these in your will.
What is the Process for Having a Will Drafted?
You should consult with an estate planning attorney to discuss your needs and wishes. Most attorneys have a questionnaire that you will need to fill out listing out your personal representatives, guardian and possible individual gifts. Backups for these people should also be listed. Once your estate planning attorney reviews your information they will be able to assess your situation, advise you, and follow up with any questions. Once a draft of your will is created, your estate planning lawyer will review it with you and make any changes or updates that you request. Once the will is completed it will be time to sign the document to make everything official. Wills require that you be above 18 years of age, you have 2 witnesses, and be of a sound mind at the time of signing the document. It can also be a good idea to have the document notarized to make things more official in case you expect any disputes as the document. Once the documents are signed, you should keep the will in a safe location and advise your personal representative or family as to the location of the will should you pass away.
If I Have a Will, Can I Make Changes At a Later Date?
Yes! Your will can be changed at a later date and should state that all previous will have been revoked. Updates may need to be made from time to time to consider life events such as children, marriage, acquisition of assets or changing your mind about specific gifts listed in a will.
If you live in Washington State and are looking for an estate planning attorney to assist with the drafting of a will, give Symmes Law Group a call at 206-682-7975 to get the counsel you need.