Client Resources and FAQs
Preparing for your appointment:
How do I get started?
How do I prepare for my appointment? What should I bring with me?
If possible, please fill out the appropriate intake form prior to your appointment. We will send you a link to fill the form out electronically, or we can mail you a hardcopy.
Estate Planning Appointments
It is not required that you bring the following information to your initial consultation, however, if you have it available it can be helpful.
Financial information for bank accounts, investments, Retirement plans (such as a 401k or IRA). We do not need account numbers and exact balances; however, we will need to know the titling of each asset (joint tenancy or sole ownership) and the beneficiary designations. Having an idea of the approximate value of each asset is also helpful.
Life Insurance Information, including they type of policy (whole, term, etc) and the beneficiary designations.
Real Property Information: If you have deeds or property tax statements readily available, bring these with you. If not, it can easily be looked up by the attorney.
Business Information: The name, contact info, and form (llc, corporation, partnership, etc) for each business interest you have.
Charity Information: The names and addresses of any charities you plan to include as beneficiaries of your estate.
Prepaid burial/cremation plans: The type of plan, name and contact information for the company, and the value (both the cash value and death benefit).
You do not need to have these decisions made prior to your appointment, but start to consider the following:
- Your Beneficiaries
- To whom do you want to leave your property to when you pass away?
- Are any of your beneficiaries’ minors? If yes, you will need to name a Trustee (to manage their finances until they are of a certain age) and a Guardian (the person(s) who will care for them).
- Do any of your beneficiaries have a disability? If so, are they receiving (or likely to receive) SSI or Medicaid?
- Do you want to leave any bequests to charity?
- Your Fiduciaries
- Executor and/or Trustee – this person will manage your estate after you pass away, and ensure your wishes are carried out, usually with the help of an attorney.
- Durable Power of Attorney Financial – this person will manage your finances if you are incapacitated
- Durable Power of Attorney Healthcare – this person will make medical decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated
- Do you own pets, and if so, who would you want to care for your pets if you could not?
- Do you have any specific wishes regarding the disposition of your remains or funeral services?
- Who would you want to temporarily care for your children if both you and your spouse were temporarily incapacitated?
- If you were terminally ill and in a permanent unconscious condition or permanent vegetative state, would you want life sustaining treatment? (hydration, nutrition, respiration, CPR)
- If you are facing a diagnosis of Dementia or Alzheimer’s, do you have specific wishes regarding your care that you want documented in your estate planning
In addition to filling out the intake form, please bring the death certificate (if you have it) and the original Last Will and Testament or other estate planning documents of the deceased.
Long Term Care Planning Appointments
Please bring as much of the following information for the person needing care as you have available:
- Health concerns and type of care needed (in home, nursing home, adult family home, memory care);
- Durable Power of Attorney and other estate planning documents;
- Financial statements for all assets (bank accounts, retirement and non retirement investment accounts, stocks, annuities, life insurance, prepaid burial plans, etc).
- Proof of income from all sources (SS, pension, work, etc)
- Property addresses for all real property (homes, land, vacation homes, etc)
What do your services cost?
Estate Planning/Special Needs Planning:
What is a Revocable Living Trust? Do I need one?
I probably get asked this question more than any other question. A Revocable Living Trust may be used in lieu of a Will to transfer your assets when you pass away. Rather than admitting a Will to probate (a court process) to administer your estate, your assets are directed by the terms of the Trust. For the Revocable Living Trust to work, you will need to re-title all of your assets to the Trust while you are still living. Therefore, Revocable Trusts can be bit more complex to set up and manage than a Last Will and Testament.
In Washington State, the probate process is relatively simple and inexpensive in most cases. Therefore, probate avoidance alone may not be a reason to have a Revocable Trust. However, there are some circumstances where a Revocable Trust makes sense, for example, if you have a blended family or if you own property in multiple states. You will want to discuss with your attorney whether a Revocable Trust makes sense for your circumstances.
If I have a Will, doesn’t my estate avoid probate?
This is a common misunderstanding. Having a Will does not result in your estate avoiding probate. However, having a Last Will and Testament can eliminate some of the steps required when opening the probate.
Another common misperception is that Probate is a complex and expensive process. Probate is a common legal procedure by which the original Will is validated, the assets of an estate are formally passed to the estate beneficiaries, and valid creditors are paid.
What is a Special Needs Trust?
There is more than one type of Special Needs Trust, however, the goal is most often the same. By holding assets in a special needs trust, a person with a disability may inherit or receive assets without impacting their eligibility for programs such as SSI and Medicaid.
If you intend to leave assets to a disabled beneficiary in your Will or give a gift to a disabled loved one, you may want to consider leaving these assets in a Special Needs Trust to avoid impacting their eligibility (or future eligibility) for resource based programs.
If you are disabled and expecting an inheritance or settlement, you or a family member may be able to set up Special Needs Trust to avoid an impact to your continued eligibility for resource based programs.
Special Needs Trusts are subject to very strict regulations and requirements. You will want to talk with an attorney knowledgeable and experienced in this area prior to proceeding with a special needs trust.
What is probate?
Probate is a legal proceeding that winds up a person’s affairs after his or her death and ensures proper distribution of assets to the deceased’s heirs and beneficiaries. The decedent’s Personal Representative must be appointed by the court and follow the statutory process for payment of creditors and eventual distribution of assets.
A loved one of mine passed away, and their banker/realtor/financial institution etc.. says I need “Letters Testamentary.” What are Letters Testamentary?
Letters Testamentary are provided by the Court upon opening a probate and being appointed as the Personal Representative of an Estate. This document serves as proof to third parties (realtors, financial institutions, title companies, etc) that you are the person authorized to act on behalf of the Estate.
If the deceased person did not leave a Will, this document is called “Letters of Administration” instead of “Letters Testamentary.”
Often times, loved ones assume being nominated in the Will as Personal Representative or Executor is all that is needed. However, the Court will first need to validate the Will and admit the Will to Probate, at which point the person nominated in the Will is officially appointed as the Personal Representative. Or, if there is no Will, the Court officially appoints the Administrator of the Estate upon opening a probate.