Frequently Asked Questions
I am in a second marriage, and we both have children from previous marriages. 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 marriages 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.
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.
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 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 a court battle. Additionally, her creditors could reach your assets to cover her debts — even while you are still alive.
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 requires independent choices by each person to name the person they choose to take care of their affairs after their death and to name their chosen heirs. If you have significantly different choices from your spouse, you may have a conflict and one of you will possibly need to have a different lawyer.
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. If no statutory heirs are found, after a period of seven years, the State Department of Revenue is allowed to take possession of the money.
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, avoiding probate proceedings.
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 that 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 other asset-distributing document.
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/supplemental needs trust in your will for your daughter. That 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. You could even create this type of trust for her now and start funding it as you choose during your lifetime.
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 your youngest child’s share. He would have to meet certain incentives or goals to receive money from his trust. Some incentives are goal-based and some are financial. If they are well-planned, your son will be encouraged to develop independence and self-sufficiency.