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Last Will and Testament

Posted by attorney Diane Wies

What is a Last Will and Testament?

· A Will is a legal document that states who should receive your property when you die.

What can you do in your Last Will and Testament?

· In addition to naming the recipients of all of your property, a Will can be used to do such things as designate the guardian of minor children and/or create trusts for your spouse, children, or grandchildren.

· Your Will also appoints the person you want to handle your affairs after your death (your Personal Representative).

Should I have a Will?

· Yes, without a Will, your property may go to unintended beneficiaries. You do not need to have a large estate to need a will.

If I do not have a Will, who will receive my property?

· If you die without a Will a Washington state statute (RCW 11.04.015) will determine who inherits your property.

Once I prepare a Will, can I change it?

· Yes. Your will only becomes effective at your death. You can change your Will as many times as you like before your death, so long as you have testamentary capacity.

How often should I change my Will?

· You should review and update your Will as conditions, your circumstances, or your wishes change. Generally at least every two years.

What is Probate?

· People often refer to the entire estate settlement proceeding as “the probate". “Probate" is actually the process by which the court determines that the will is properly signed and witnessed and that the person signing the will was of sound mind and acting of free will when the document was signed.

Will my Estate require a Probate?

· Maybe. Washington has several rules that simplify or eliminate the probate process when there you are survived by a spouse or have a small estate and do not own real property.

What is a Personal Representative?

· A Personal Representative is the person appointed to collect all of your assets, pay all of your debts, distribute all of you assets and wind up your affairs after you pass away.

What is a Credit Trust?

· A Credit Trust is a tax shelter tool. It is established in your Will for the benefit of your Surviving Spouse. The use of a credit shelter trust can reduce payment of estate taxes and provides the ability to avoid paying unnecessary estate taxes upon the death of the second spouse to die.

Do I need a Credit Trust?

· Maybe. You should consult with an attorney to determine if one is appropriate for you.

Will all of my assets pass through my Will?

· Not necessarily. For the most part, nonprobate assets pass outside of your Will.

· In general, nonprobate assets are assets that have a designated beneficiary, are held jointly with another person (“JTWROS" or “JT TEN"), or are “payable on death" (“POD" designation) to another person.

· You should talk to your attorney about your assets to determine how any particular asset will pass upon your death.

This information was prepared as a public service by Mullavey, Prout, Grenley & Foe LLP. It contains general information and is not intended to apply to any specific situation. The information is very broadly and simply stated. There are a number of exceptions and specific rules that apply to your particular situation and lead to a different result. If you need legal advice or have questions, you should consult a lawyer.

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