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Why Estate Planning Is Important

Northwest Elder Law Center Jan. 24, 2023

Text estate planning on notepadCreating an estate plan allows you to provide specific instructions about how the management of your property and final affairs upon your death or sudden incapacitation. Without a valid plan in place, you leave the fate of your estate in the hands of the court, which could potentially cost your surviving loved ones a lot of time, money, and stress.  

Northwest Elder Law Center is committed to offering reliable advocacy and experienced guidance to clients in estate planning-related matters. Attorney Robert Taylor-Manning can enlighten you about the importance of estate planning, advise you about your various legal options, and help you decide the right choice for your specific needs. The firm proudly serves clients across Kennewick, Richland, Walla Walla, and Pasco, Washington, as well as Portland, Oregon. 

Why Is Estate Planning Important? 

Estate planning can be described as the process of making suitable plans in advance regarding how you want your property, asset, and money to be managed, distributed to inheritors, or disposed of when you die or upon sudden incapacitation. Here are some benefits of estate planning: 

  • It helps you prepare for life’s uncertainties. 

  • It helps protect your assets, property, business, interests, and investments. 

  • It allows you to make adequate provisions for your surviving family members, spouses, children, dependents, and other close relatives. 

  • It helps you leave detailed instructions to your descendants and heritors.  

  • It allows you to select a reliable and trustworthy person as your personal representative. 

  • It allows you to convey your last wishes in the event of mental incapacitation. 

  • It helps protect your assets, money, and investments from unknown creditors and frivolous lawsuits. 

  • It affords you total control over who inherits your assets and property. 

  • It allows you to choose who will make decisions for you when you become unable or unavailable to do so.  

  • It helps protect minor children and make sure that they are properly catered to. 

  • It helps beneficiaries and heirs avoid or reduce inheritance, estate, and gift taxes. 

  • It helps you bypass the costly and lengthy probate process 

  • It helps avoid possible conflicts and disputes between loved ones during probate and estate administration

  • It helps ensure that you do not die intestate (without a will) 

A strategic Washington State estate planning attorney can educate you about the legal process involved and help you make intelligent decisions when creating your plan. 

What Happens When Someone Dies Without an Estate Plan?  

Statistics from the 2022 Wills and Estate Planning Study by Caring.com indicate that only about 33.1% of American adults have a will or estate plan. When someone dies without a will or estate plan in Washington, their assets will go through probate, and their estate will be administered using the state’s intestate succession rules. Hence, if you die intestate, the state will determine what happens to your assets and property. 

What is Probate?  

Probate is a court-supervised process that is usually needed to determine the validity of a will and settle a deceased person’s estate and final affairs. Generally, the probate process in the state of Washington involves: 

  • Collecting and evaluating the decedent’s property and assets 

  • Paying taxes and debts, and 

  • Distributing the remaining assets to rightful inheritors – heirs and beneficiaries. 

If there is a will, the probate court will appoint a named personal representative, executor, or administrator to oversee the probate process and handle estate administration. Conversely, if the person died intestate, the decedent’s estate and assets will be administered according to Washington’s intestate succession rules. 

Washington’s Intestate Succession Rules  

Washington’s intestate succession rules set forth how a decedent’s assets would be distributed if they died intestate or without a valid will. Here are some key provisions of the law: 

  • If the decedent dies with a spouse only, the surviving spouse will receive the entire estate. 

  • If the decedent dies with children but no spouse, the surviving children will receive the entire estate. 

  • If the decedent dies with a spouse and children, the surviving spouse will receive all the community estate and half of your separate property. The other half will go to your children. 

  • If the decedent dies with a spouse and parents but no children, the surviving spouse will receive all the community estate and three-quarters of your separate property. The other one-quarter will go to your parents. 

  • If the decedent dies with a spouse and siblings but no parents and children, the surviving spouse will receive all the community estate and three-quarters of your separate property. The remaining one-quarter will go to your siblings. 

  • If the probate court is unable to locate any surviving family member, relatives, or suitable heirs, Washington State will inherit or receive full ownership of the whole estate. 

With intestate succession, Washington determines who inherits your estate and asset. For this reason, you need to create a detailed estate plan to protect your assets, make suitable provisions for your family members, and decide who inherits your property and funds. 

Who Should Have an Estate Plan? 

Life is full of many uncertainties, and every adult should have an estate plan. Whether you are a young adult, middle-aged, senior, or older adult, you should establish a personalized estate plan that suits your unique needs. This might be a simple plan for a young adult in their twenties, thirties, or a comprehensive plan for an older adult or senior. 

Get the Detailed Guidance and Advocacy You Need 

Preparing for life’s uncertainties can never be too soon. Should you become incapacitated or die in an accident, your surviving loved ones can benefit from knowing your exact wishes.  

Attorney Robert Taylor-Manning has devoted his career to advising and guiding individuals and families through the complexities of estate planning. As your legal counsel, Robert can advise you about your available options and help draft your will, living trust, and other estate planning documents. In addition, Attorney Robert Taylor-Manning will help you outline a strategic plan to protect your accumulated assets and wealth and address your needs intelligently. 

Contact Northwest Elder Law Center today to schedule a simple consultation with a trusted estate planning lawyer. Attorney Robert Taylor-Manning can offer you the detailed legal counsel and dedicated advocacy you need to navigate crucial decisions. The firm proudly serves clients across Kennewick, Richland, Walla Walla, and Pasco, Washington, as well as Portland, Oregon.