Washington Wills, Trusts, and Probate
Despite our reluctance to ponder about death or incapacity, it is of great importance to be prepared for the day when our estate must be distributed. The size of your assets or your age does not matter when it comes to ensuring that your family is taken care of after you are gone.
There are different tools available to help you distribute your assets in the exact way you like, which include a will and trust. If you do not end up using an estate planning mechanism to manage your estate, the distribution of your assets will be left up to a court. Therefore, a properly created estate planning mechanism becomes vital to those who have specific wishes about the distribution of their estate. As such, consolting a Washington estate planning attorney is highly recommended when going through such a critical time in one's life.
When creating a will, it is imperative that you meet all of Washington's requirements. If all of the requirements are not met, courts in Washington may not recognize the will as legally valid. There are three ways to create a legally valid will in Washington:
Changing a Will in Washington
There a few methods available in Washington to change a will:
In regard to the first option, creating a subsequent will that either expressly or by inconsistency revokes the original will is one of the most common methods of changing a will in Washington.
In regard to the second option, physically destroying your old will by burning, canceling, or otherwise destroying it with the intent to revoke the original will revokes your old will. It shoold be emphasized that this destruction cannot be accidental.
In regard to the third option, one can amend the original will by a codicil. Attaching a separate document with the desired changes is usually sufficient to utilize this method.
In regard to the fourth option, divorce or annolment will revoke all provisions of the will benefiting the former spouse.
If one decides to change his or her will, any questions or concerns during this process shoold be directed to a Washington will attorney.
Another estate planning mechanism that one shoold seriously consider is a trust. A trust is often used due to its flexible nature to distribute assets at a specific time, rather than immediately at the death of the creator. There are many different kinds of trusts recognized under Washington law, including animal trusts, charitable trusts, and noncharitable trusts. Every trust must have a "trustee" in order to function properly. A trustee essentially manages the trust on behalf of the trust's beneficiaries.
Along with the trustee's rights, a trustee has certain responsibilities that the assets in the trust are effectively spent, invested, and managed so as to benefit the trust's beneficiaries. He or she must act in good faith and with honest judgment at all times. Due to the various components of a trust and its complex nature, it is highly advisable to contact a Washington trust attorney to assist you in the creation and customization of your desired trust.
Upon death, one's estate must go through probate in order to distribute the deceased's assets. If the deceased leaves a will, the probate court must determine if the will is legally valid and if found valid, distribute the assets according to the will. The will must be delivered to the court by the person who has custody/control of the will within 30 days of him or her finding out about death of the testator. Conversely, if no will is left by the deceased, a Washington court will appoint an executor to distribute the deceased's assets. Intestate succession under Washington law allows the following people to hold interests (non-exclusive):
Creating an estate planning mechanism is vital to ensure that you and not a court decide how to distribute your assets upon death. Be sure to consolt a Washington probate attorney before creating a will, starting a trust, or going through the probate process.
Title 11- Probate and Trust Law