Wills & Probate
No matter who you are, you must face the fact that someday you will pass from this life. Even before passing, you may face incapacities that make it imperative to have someone else look after your affairs for you while you are incapacitated.
The key to handling both of these matters is to prepare for them beforehand while you are healthy and clear-minded. These preparations ease the burdens placed on those who will (a) look after you if you become incapacitated before you pass and (b) manage your estate after you do pass. Making these preparations beforehand also will give you the satisfaction of mind that you have made your situation easier for your family and friends when they need to step in.
Preparing for your possible incapacity and certain passing involves preparation of a (a) Power of Attorney (“POA”), (b) Will, and (c) Health Care Directive (also known as a “Living Will”). The POA and Health Care Directive operate while you are still living and the Will comes into operation after you pass. To cover all of your bases and make sure that your wishes are carried out, all three of these documents need to be prepared.
The Will allows you to determine how your assets are to be distributed among your chosen heirs after you pass. If you have a valid Will at the time of your passing, then your estate is said to be “testate”. If you do not have a valid Will at the time of your passing, then your estate is said to be “intestate.”
Under your Will, you can choose who your heirs will be and in what proportions of your net estate each heir will receive. You can also set up trusts to manage your assets. Also under your Will, you choose who your personal representative (aka executor or executrix) will be. This personal representative, after you pass, will have the authority to manage and close your estate. Managing your estate means paying off any creditors who make valid claims on your estate and then making distributions of the balance of your estate to your chosen heirs.
If you pass intestate, then state statutes determine how your estate will be distributed. Such distributions may or may not be the same as what you may have intended.
Power of Attorney
The POA allows you to choose another person, known as the “attorney-in-fact”, to look after your financial and health care matters while you are incapacitated. When you recover from your incapacity, this authority reverts back to you.
However, the attorney-in-fact’s authority over your affairs, while it is in effect, is limited. He or she cannot (a) make, amend, alter, change, or revoke on your behalf any Wills or codicils, life insurance beneficiary designations, or employee benefit plan beneficiary designations; (b) exercise any power of appointment, (c) make transfers of property to any trust (whether or not created by principal) unless the trust benefits the principal alone, etc.
Health Care Directive (aka “Living Will”)
The Health Care Directive informs your health care providers to what extent you want life-support measures to sustain your life when your passing looks imminent. When you have been diagnosed to be in a terminal condition or in a permanent unconscious condition and life-sustaining treatment would only artificially prolong the process of passing, you can direct that such treatment be withheld or withdrawn and you be permitted to pass naturally. You can even choose whether or not you should be given nutrition and/or hydration during this time. These obviously are very personal decisions that you get to make for yourself.
Sometimes someone may contest either the Will itself or how the assets distribution is made. That person can petition the Court to set aside the Will, challenge the assets distribution, or similar issues. This may require a full-fledged Court action and trial.
Schedule A Consultation
I am dedicated to helping clients throughout King County and the surrounding areas. You need a lawyer to be your advocate and leader as soon as possible in these situations. Do not let insurance companies or your employer take advantage of you. Schedule a free initial consultation with me today by calling 425-243-9915 or sending an email.