The Three Steps of Estate Planning
One recent survey concluded that more than half of Americans do not have essential estate planning documents in place. Estate planning, or planning for the administration and distribution of your estate upon your death, is simple, affordable, but overwhelmingly ignored by most families.
We emphasize the importance of having an estate plan to ensure any earned assets are bequeathed and administered consistent with your wishes and are not left to the courts or strangers to decide.
As you begin this process, ask yourself:
Who do you want to be your executor?
Who do you want to receive your property and investments?
Who do you want to have custody of your minor children?
Establishing a plan based on these questions puts your family in the best possible position to process your loss. Having a plan ensures your family will avoid the struggles and difficulties often experienced by those whose loved ones failed to prepare, at the very least, a basic estate plan. Trust us, as a law firm experienced in litigating estate disputes throughout the Puget Sound, Tacoma, and Gig Harbor, we are well versed in the trying scenarios that unravel as a result of the lack of an estate plan. Putting the basic estate plan into place will go a long way to ensure your loved ones can focus on celebrating your life, and not fighting over your possessions.
Our Process is Simple, Efficient, and Designed to Meet your Goals
Our estate planning process is designed to achieve your unique objectives and doesn’t require clients to have every detail determined before the first meeting. We provide a forum for dialogue, which allows us to gather information to inform what will eventually become your estate plan.
Step 1. Inventory Your Assets and Objectives.
Our estate planning process begins with an inventory of your assets, an understanding of your immediate family, and your wishes with respect to the disposition and administration of your estate.
Step 2. Pick the Vehicle(s) Best for You.
For estates which are, or which will likely become, subject to the Federal or State Estate taxes, you may want to consider an estate plan that contemplates annual giving and certain trust vehicles in order to lessen or eliminate the potential for future estate tax burdens. (In 2019, the Federal Estate Tax threshold is $11.4 Million, and the Washington State Estate Tax threshold is nearly $2.2 Million). While we do not provide tax advice, we will help you determine whether there is a taxable estate and make sure we work hand-in-hand with you and your accountant as it relates to tax planning for your estate, and ultimately make sure that you have the most advantageous Will or Trust vehicles in place.
For example, for those estates with minor children, in addition to indicating a preference for the custody of your children, you may consider a testamentary trust, which delineates how your funds will be managed for the benefit of your children when you pass.
Or, for estates with real estate holdings, including out of state real estate, you may consider deed modifications or trust instruments that allow the real estate to transfer immediately upon your death, and outside of probate, while considering and addressing the potential impacts of capital gains taxes.
Step 3. Memorialize Your Estate Planning Documents.
Once we have a good idea as to your assets and wishes, we then prepare the initial draft estate plan for review and discussion. From there, we work together to ensure the overall plan meets your long-term goals. In addition to creating the Estate Planning documents, we will discuss certain non-probate assets, such as your investments and life insurance, and make sure you have appropriately identified the beneficiaries consistent with your last wishes. Upon completion, we execute the final documents and they are given back to you for safekeeping.
We make the estate planning process simple and efficient, and most importantly we’ll make sure that you are positioned to make the best possible decisions.