Estate Planning

Vancouver, WA Estate Planning & Probate Lawyers

Advising Washington seniors, parents, and others about end of life planning and decisions

There are a lot of reasons to think about estate planning as early as possible. If you have children, you definitely need a will. If you have busines interests, you need to think about who will own your interest and who will run the business when you’re gone. The more assets you accumulate, with or without a spouse, the more you need to think about estate planning. Seniors need to think about estate planning while they’re in fairly good health.

At Philbrook Law Office PS, our skilled Vancouver, WA estate planning and probate lawyers work to understand your needs and your goals for the people you care about. With proper planning, you can help your loved ones, nonprofits, and those in need maximize the amount of funds they receive – while minimizing the time it takes to distribute the funds. Good planning can clarify what happens when you become severely ill. Probate planning helps avoid litigation when you pass on.


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What are the goals of estate planning?

Our skilled estate planning lawyers begin our review of your estate planning needs by determining:

  • Who your heirs and beneficiaries are. In most cases, the people you want to leave your property to are your spouse and children. If you don’t have a spouse or children, then you will probably want to leave your property to other relatives. Some people want to leave some of their funds to nonprofits and charities such as a school or the Red Cross. If you don’t specifically designate your heirs or handle your assets so they don’t pass through probate – then your assets are distributed based on the intestate laws of Washington.
  • What your property is. We help you identify all the property you have including:
    • A home
    • Vehicles
    • Bank accounts
    • Jewelry
    • Personal belongings
    • IRAs, annuities, and retirement accounts
    • Business interests
    • Stocks and bonds
    • Other valuable possessions
  • Who will handle your estate when you’re gone. We help you understand who you should choose as the executor of the estate and the pros and cons of multiple executors, and the duties of the executor.

What types of documents and information are needed in an estate plan?

There are many legal documents that are used to carry out your goals. Some of the core documents you might need include:

  • Wills. Wills are written documents that designate who gets your property and who handles your estate. There are specific formalities for writing a will. There are numerous clauses and language that skilled lawyers insert to protect your interests.
  • Trusts. Trusts are used to help avoid the probate of assets, minimize taxes, and provide controls on how your assets are handled. Trusts place your property in the hands of a trustee for the benefit of designated beneficiaries. Trusts can take effect immediately or become active when you die. There are many different types of trust agreements.
  • Powers of Attorney. These documents give designated persons the right to handle some of your legal affairs while you are alive such as making bank deposits or selling certain assets. They’re often used when you become physically or mentally disabled.
  • Medical Directives. These orders direct how doctors will treat you when you become ill and what end-of-life decisions are made for you.

There are many other legal documents that may be useful depending on your personal situation.

What personal concerns of others do you need to address?

Estate planning is very useful for addressing many of the personal cares you have for your loved ones and the people and places you cherish.

If you have children, then it’s natural to think that the other parent will take care of your children when you’re gone, but you need to review all the possibilities. If your spouse isn’t alive or dies before you, you’ll need someone to raise your kids, someone you trust. If a spouse becomes incompetent, you’ll need someone else to raise the kids, too.

  • A will is useful for designating a guardian for your children.
  • Trusts and other legal documents are useful for helping to ensure the funds are in an account where they can be accessed by the guardian or trustee for the child’s care, upbringing and expenses.
  • If your child has special needs due to a disability or unique talents or issues, then a special needs trust is often the ideal document.

Estate documents can help you aid organizations and nonprofits you’ve worked with during your life, or that you want to help when you’re gone – such as charities, religious organizations, and nonprofits.

What personal concerns for yourself need to be addressed?

Our Vancouver, WA estate planning team reviews your options if and when you become physically ill, become diagnosed with dementia, or have other long-term health problems.

We explain and explore various options such as:

  • Private nursing homes. There are facilities that help seniors when they’re healthy, and homes that help you when your health worsens. The facilities are often quite expensive. We help you prepare for the expense and selection of a private nursing home.
  • Assisted living facilities. These facilities allow individuals some modicum of autonomy. If your loved one needs some help with day-to-day activities, but is largely self-sufficient, an assisted living facility may be the right choice.
  • Continuing communities. These facilities are a combination of nursing home and assisted living facilities, so that your loved one can stay in the same place. As his or her needs increase, the level of care he or she will receive can increase, too.
  • Medicaid facilities. Entrance into a Medicaid facility is generally dependent on your wealth. If you have too much wealth, you may not be eligible. There are strategies that can address this dilemma.

Estate planning for business owners

Seniors, parents, and others who run a business or have an interest in a business, usually, want to make sure that the business can be used on behalf of their family. Decisions have to be made about whether the business should be sold, and the assets distributed, or whether the business should continue so it can generate a profit for your family.

A lot depends on your interest in the business. Some businesses can’t be run by your spouse or children if they’re not in the same profession. Other businesses, like restaurants, may provide desired jobs for your family.

Our Vancouver, WA estate planning lawyers review business transfer and business succession issues including reviewing:

  • What should be done with the business when you’re gone
  • What your business interest is - shares of stock, a partnership agreement, or your own enterprise
  • How your interest in the business will be valued when you die
  • Many other legal and practical issues in selling and running a business

What is probate?

Probate is the legal process for administering someone’s estate. Probate begins by validating any wills and appointing a personal representative.

With proper planning, many assets can be distributed without probate. For example, property that is held jointly with the right of survivorship passes to the survivor directly. Insurance proceeds go to a named beneficiary and pass directly to that person. We help minimize the property that passes through an estate.

If a will is contested because of undue influence, failure to file the legal formalities, or because the person whose will is being considered lacked testamentary capacity - probate decides how that contest should be decided.


What is estate administration?

Once a will is validated and/or a personal representative (such as an executor) is approved, we help the personal representative collect the assets, value the assets, pay off creditors, sell and distribute the assets.


Personalized estate planning services in Washington and Oregon

At Philbrook Law Office, our Vancouver, WA estate planning and probate lawyers explain how various legal documents can help ensure your family is protected when it’s your time to pass on. We prepare the documents that help you direct who gets your assets, who takes care of your children, and that help maximize your assets. We help avoid family conflicts when you die by addressing them now.

To schedule a free consultation at one of our offices in Vancouver or Battle Ground, WA, please call 360-695-3309 or complete our contact form.