Battle Ground Estate Planning & Probate Lawyers
Proactive estate planning guidance for clients in Washington
Once you start a family, you need to think about how your spouse and children and loved ones will survive when you die. Once you accumulate any financial wealth, you need to speak with an experienced estate planning lawyer to help ensure your family, work partners, and friends control your assets the way you want – not the way creditors or the state wants. As you get older, you need to prepare for the time you may not be physically or mentally fit.
At Philbrook Law Office, PS, our Battle Ground estate planning and probate lawyers have been helping seniors, spouses, domestic partners, and parents understand the full nature of the assets for years. We help you use wills, trusts, and other legal documents that help you ensure your assets and income pass directly to benefit the people you choose. With effective estate planning, we help you select people to raise your children and/or take care of the funds they need if you die too young. Strong planning can help ensure your home, your business, and other assets go your loved ones quickly – without delays or litigation.
What are the advantages of estate planning?
If you don’t plan, all your assets will pass through your estate. The procedures for distribution and who gets what property will be determined by the intestate laws of Washington. There may be fights among your heirs as to who will handle the estate. In many cases, your assets will be collected and sold – and all your spouse, children, and others will receive is a check. What you really wanted is for them to stay in the family home, and continue their schooling in the same community. Any business interests will likely be sold, probably at below its real value – instead of providing a career and/or income.
At Philbrook Law Office, our Battle Ground estate planning lawyers review your wishes and your goals for those you care about. This includes:
- Determining who should get your property. Most people want their spouse and children to take possession of their home, personal belongings, business, and financial assets. Estate planning helps ensure these family members get these assets quickly. Estate planning can also help you leave some of your assets to parents, siblings, friends, charities, educational institutions, and others.
- Determining what your property is and the way it’s valued. We run though a lengthy checklist to identify your home, vehicles, bank accounts, and your personal belongings such as jewelry and furniture. We identify interests such as IRAs, retirement benefits, stocks and bonds. We also review how your business interests will continue when you’re gone. For example, if you run a small restaurant, you may want your family to be able to run the restaurant if they want to – when you die.
- Who will administer your estate and manage any funds needed for minors and loved ones with special needs. Wills and trusts allow you to appoint executors, guardians, and trustees who can manage your estate and key assets when you’re gone. Special protections can be drafted for children and adults with disabilities.
What legal documents do our Battle Ground lawyers use to help plan your estate?
We regularly use a combination of legal documents, depending on your needs and goals, to help plan your estate proactively.
- Wills. This standard document is prepared by the person (called the testator) who is planning for a future when they die. Wills should always be one of the instruments you use – because they serve as a catch-all for any items that aren’t protected in other ways. Wills are used to direct who gets your assets, appoint an executor, to appoint guardians for minor children, and for other reasons.
- Retitling of assets. Your current deeds, bank accounts, vehicles, insurance proceeds many need to be retitled. Designations of joint ownership with right of survivorship, payable on death, or just designating named beneficiaries can help avoid probate and ensure the people named get these assets quickly.
- Trusts. Trusts come in many forms. Generally, you can transfer your assets when you create the trust or designate that they be transferred when you die. Trusts identity which assets a trustee will control for specific beneficiaries. They are often used when children or adults have special needs.
- Powers of Attorney. Seniors need to consider drafting powers of attorney so people they can trust can help them when the senior becomes physically ill, develops dementia, or has other difficulties. The person named as having the power of attorney can perform may tasks such as paying bills for you when you’re not fit.
- Medical Directives. These orders explain how end-of-life decisions and other illness decisions will be made when you can’t make them for yourself.
Other legal documents may also be useful.
How does estate planning protect children?
Effective estate planning is a necessity if you have children. We all hope we will live long enough to see our children become adults, marry, and have families of their own. Sadly, though, sometimes both parents die while the child is a minor. Someone needs to raise the children and provide for their financial needs. Various legal documents are used on behalf of children.
- A will can designate the guardians who will raise the child.
- Trust agreements are often used to ensure funds are set aside for the child’s daily living needs, education, medical care, and other needs. The person named as the trustee may or may not be the same as the guardian of the child.
- Special needs trusts are used if your child has any type of disability or unusual needs.
Estate planning documents can also help you leave some of your assets to nonprofits and organizations you admire. They may also be useful in reducing taxes and in minimizing which assets creditors can seize.
Protecting yourself through estate planning
It’s easy to think we’ll live forever, but time marches on despite our best intentions. Most seniors need assistance later in life. In addition to powers of attorney and medical directives, estate planning can help decide:
- What nursing home you stay in and how the payments to that home will be made
- How you might be eligible for a Medicaid facility even if you currently have some wealth
- Who will be your conservator or adult care provider if needed
How is estate planning useful if you have a business interest?
Many people own their own businesses, have a partnership with others, or have investments in businesses. Some testators want to keep working until they die. Some seniors, parents, and others want their spouse and children to have a steady income through their business interests – when they pass on.
With effective estate planning, we can help determine:
- Who will own these interests when you die
- How each business interest will be valued
- Whether the business must be sold
- Who could run the business if you had control of the business while you were alive
- How to minimize tax consequences related to the business
- Other practical and financial business decisions
What are probate and estate administration?
Probate is more than just a fancy legal word from olden days. Any property that doesn’t pass to someone through a trust, through a deed, or through another legal instrument passes through probate.
- Validating the will
- Appointing an executor
- Resolving any will contests
Estate administration ensures that your plans are put in place. The role of an estate administrator (also known as an executor/executrix) involves:
- Identifying and valuing the assets
- Paying any creditors, including taxes, and any administrative expenses
- Managing the assets until they can be sold or distributed
- Distributing the assets
Effective, efficient estate planning counsel in Battle Ground
The experienced Battle Ground lawyers at Philbrook Law Office calmly and thoroughly help you understand the benefits of estate planning. We analyze your estate and your goals. We explain the pros and cons of various estate planning strategies. Our lawyers then prepare the right documents for your estate planning needs. We also help you minimize how much property goes through probate. We help the personal administrator manage and distribute the estate. To schedule a free consultation at our office in Battle Ground, WA, please call 360-695-3309 or fill out our contact form. We maintain another office in Vancouver, WA, and also represent clients in Portland and throughout Oregon.