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Estate Planning & Wills
“What’s past is prologue.” – William Shakespeare, The Tempest
Generally, a Last Will and Testament is a written document that contains the legal declaration of a person’s last wishes concerning his estate.
In Washington, Title 11, Chapter 12 of the Revised Code of Washington provides that a valid Last Will and Testament must be written and signed by the person making the will and by two “uninterested” witnesses.
The Will usually provides directions on how property should be disposed, names heirs, and nominates people to perform certain tasks, such as acting as the executor (also known as a personal representative) or acting as a guardian for minor children, and provides any other instructions and wishes of the testator.
More information about Puget Sound Law’s services and fees related to Estate Planning can be found in the Services section of this site and general information may be found from the following links and pages:
Also, the Washington State Bar Association has several Consumer Information Pamphlets available to the public, related to estate planning, wills, probate, and revocable living trusts.
Also see the publications and articles from the Estate Planning Council of Seattle
A Health Care Directive, also known as a “living will”, is a document which directs the withholding or withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment when the patient is in a terminal condition or permanent unconscious condition.
Washington State Natural Death Act
Most Washington State residents indicate their preference about organ donation through the Washington State Department of Licensing driver license organ donor program by “checking the box” on their driver license. The word “DONOR” or a picture of a small red heart appears on a driver license to indicate whether an individual is an organ donor participant.
It is critically important to be aware of the full extent to this anatomical gift donation.
The Washington State Organ Donor program is meant to be very broad. In May 2007, a King County Superior Court judge ruled that participants who register through the Washington State Department of Licensing driver license program are authorizing an unconditional and comprehensive anatomical gift, not only for the purposes of life savings transplants but also for medical research purposes. No further consent from surviving family members is required.
An organ donor may specify that an anatomical gift is only for life-saving transplant purposes. However, the driver license program does not currently allow a donor to limit their registration for transplant purposes only.
If you consent to an anatomical gift for all purposes, including transplant and medical research, then you do not need to make any change to your registration with the driver license program. Many individuals find all these purposes to be worthy and beneficial for society.
You may make an anatomical gift by other means, such as registering with another organ donor program or registry. Also, it is appropriate to include your wishes concerning organ donation in a Health Care Directive, other health care document or instructions, or to simply advise your family members of your wishes so they can consent on your behalf at the time of your death.
In the event that you wish to specify that your anatomical gift is only for life-saving transplant purposes and you have registered with the driver license program, then you must take several steps to modify your registration. First, you must revoke your registration under the driver license program and have a new driver license issued reflecting that you are not an organ donor. This is a several step process initiated with the donation registry managed by LifeCenter Northwest.
The central organ donor database in Washington State covers all types of organ donor registrations, including those registered through the driver license program. The registry allows you to register and update your organ donation, check the status of your registration, or remove your anatomical gift if you change your mind. Even if you update or change your registration on-line, any change to your registration is not effective until your written and signed form is received by the registry.
As with any estate planning decision, you may always modify any prior organ donor registration at any time, but it is critical that you take the action to do so before your death and that you share your wishes with your family and friends, especially those who may be making this decision for you.
Estate Taxes & Repeal
“Inheritance taxes are so high that the happiest mourner at a rich man’s funeral is usually Uncle Sam.” – Olin Miller
The Federal Estate Tax is imposed on the net value of the Estate, according to the date of death, and is a tax paid by the Estate, not the heirs.
Generally, the value of an estate is found by totaling the fair market value on the date of death of all the assets owned by the Decedent, less any debts of the Decedent, plus the face value of life insurance owned by the Decedent. However, calculating the value of an Estate may be a complicated question and a competent estate tax advisor should review the estate to determine if any estate taxes are owed.
While some tax relief was provided at the Federal level, the State of Washington has taken a different path. The Washington State Legislature passed a new Washington State Estate Tax effective for Estates as of 05/17/2005, which is in addition to any tax imposed by the Federal government.
Puget Sound Law assists clients before death by advising, drafting, and implementing estate plans to take advantage of opportunities to reduce and sometimes eliminate potential estate taxes.
Also, after a death, Puget Sound Law assists clients, who are serving as administrator and executor of an estate and as trustee of a trust, by ensuring that the proper valuation of estate assets is made, any necessary returns have been filed, and that the obligations of the estate and any trust are properly handled.
Probate & Estate Settlement
Probate is the legal court proceeding for finalizing the affairs and settling the estate of a person who has died.
Most probate proceedings often include admitting the Will to probate, determining the heirs of the estate, settling debts of the decedent and expenses of the administration, and distributing and transferring the property of the estate.
More information about Puget Sound Law’s services and fees related to Probate and Estate Settlement can be found in the Services section of this site and general information may be found from the following links and pages:
Also, see the public service publications and articles
“Dealing with the Death of a Loved One” and
“Guardian, Trustee, and Executor Duties”
by the Estate Planning Council of Seattle
Small & Family Businesses
More information about Puget Sound Law’s services and fees related to Small & Family Businesses can be found in the Services section of this site and general information may be found from the following links and pages: