1. I am in a second marriage and we both have children from a previous marriage. What should I be thinking about and doing for my estate planning?

A good start would be to read "Money and Marriage Two", by Jon Fitzpatrick. Meet with an attorney who is experienced in estate planning for second marriage and blended families to develop an estate plan. Parr Price Law PS frequently works with individuals planning a second or third marriage to protect legacy property and assets, while also securing the financial goals and priorities they will share with their new spouse.

2. I own real estate in Arizona-how should I address it in my estate plan?

Have our lawyer to help you draft and sign a revocable living trust, and assist in deedingthe real estate into the trust. This will help avoid having to do a probate administration in Arizona. There are also other options available, depending on the type of real estate and your future plans for it.

3. Do I need to update my health care power of attorney if it doesn't have a HIPAA waiver in it?

Yes, in April, 2004 the Federal Government passed a bill making all our medical information confidential, even from our loved ones. If you are not able to give verbal consent for your doctor or hospital personnel to talk to your spouse, partner or other loved one, they will not talk to them about your condition unless you have a health care power of attorney with a HIPAA waiver..

4. Should I talk to my children about my finances and other important matters?

Usually, yes, it is important for you to let your children and other heirs know you are organized, and that you have the proper estate planning documents, if you expect them to be able to assist when the time comes. You don't have to tell them everything, but let them know where to look for important documents and information, and what to do if you become physically or mentally disabled. We are available to facilitate this conversation, if you like.

5. Should I put my daughter's name on all of my bank accounts as joint tenant to avoid probate? She is trustworthy and has agreed to split up the assets with her two siblings.

Probably not. Often, a grieving child is overwhelmed and distracted by many emotions and fears, and may not fully understand or follow your directions. You will have fueled the possibility of a family disagreement, or even estrangement or court battle. Additionally, her creditors could reach your assets to cover her debts--even while you are still alive.

6. I have a Down's Syndrome child who is 45 years old. I am 78 years old. She had lived with us all her life until two years ago when my husband died. I just couldn't take care of her at the house without my husband's help so I moved her to a group home. I am her guardian and there are several things I still manage for her. I also visit her several times a week. I don't have any children or family members to take my place. What do I do?

This is a very difficult and heart-wrenching challenge for families. However, there are excellent professional guardianship services, along with individual professional guardians, who could be named as standby guardian. We often help our clients find a standby guardian in this kind of a situation. It helps us put our client's mind at ease, and assure the best possible protection and care for their disabled child.

7. If my husband and I cannot agree on how to draft our wills can the same lawyer work with both of us?

Drafting a will provides the right of independent choice to each person to name the person they want to take care of their affairs after their death, and to name their chosen heirs. If you have significantly different choices than your spouse, you may have a conflict and will possiblyneed to have your own lawyer.

8. What happens if I do not have a will?

Contrary to popular belief, your estate does not go to the State of Washington. Rather, the laws of the State of Washington will determine which of your relatives gets your estate and how it will be administered. The method of distribution is set by statute and often the results are quite unexpected or unsatisfactory.

9. Are there special probate proceedings for small estates in the State of Washington?

Yes, if the value of the decedent's personal property does not exceed $100,000 and other conditions are met, the personal property can be claimed and distributed using an affidavit of no probate.

10. My wife and I have minor children and if we both die while they are young we want their assets managed for them until the age of 30. Is this possible?

Yes. There are multiple methods to establish that a child's share will be held and managed for her or his health, support, maintenance and education until each child reaches a certain age (which you determine). Trusts are often funded by life insurance and it is important that you change the secondary beneficiary on your life insurance to the contingent trust named in your will or otherwise created.

11. I have a daughter with special needs who will never be able to care for herself. She receives a Social Security Benefit each month. Should I leave her share of the estate directly to her?

Probably not. You need to see an estate planning lawyer to discuss setting up a special needs trust in your will for your daughter. The trust will allow her share to be held and managed for her benefit in a discretionary way by her trustee so that she will benefit from her inheritance without being disqualified from Social Security.

12. My youngest child has never learned to manage money. He gets it and he spends it. He dropped out of college and he isn't working. My wife and I are getting older and we want all three of our children to get their equal share, but we are concerned about giving money outright to our youngest unless he changes. What can we do?

Talk to an estate planning attorney about putting an "incentive trust" into your will to manage the youngest child's share. He will have to meet certain incentives or goals in order to receive money from his trust. Some incentives are goal based and some are dollar based. If they are well-planned your son will be encouraged to develop independence and self-sufficiency.

13. I keep hearing about a POLST order. What is it and does it apply to me?

The Physician Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form represents a way of summarizing wishes of an individual regarding life-sustaining treatment. The form is intended for use by any individual with an advanced life limiting illness This document does NOT take the place of a Health Care Directive.

14. Does the State of Washington have a law protecting couples who are not legally married?

Yes, the State of Washington has one of the more advanced Domestic Partnership Registration Act in the nation: These laws are found primarily in Chapter 26.60 of the Revised Code of Washington Individuals who want to enter into a domestic partnership must file a "Declaration of State Registered Domestic Partnership" with the Secretary of State and pay a filing fee. For all practical purposes, under state law, state registered domestic partners shall be treated the same as married spouses and the provisions of the act shall be liberally construed to achieve equal treatment, to the extent not in conflict with federal law. However, this law is not a substitute for good estate planning to assure that each partner can provide care to the other in the event of physical or mental disability, and to assure that their assets go to their chosen heir upon their death.

15. Is using the services of a Financial Planner part of the estate planning process?

It is very important to establish a financial plan as early as possible. A financial planner can help you:

  • Set realistic financial and personal goals.
  • Assess your current financial health by examining your assets, liabilities, income, insurance, taxes, investments and estate plan.
  • Develop a realistic, comprehensive plan to meet your financial goals.
  • Put your plan in action and monitor its progress.
  • Stay on track to meet changing goals, etc.