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Regardless of your net worth, it is important to have a basic estate plan. There are several legal documents to assure your best interest and wishes are carried out. Our estate planning practice includes drafting wills, revocable trusts, powers of attorney, advanced health care directives, and irrevocable trusts. We help plan for full utilization of the federal gift and estate tax, federal generation-skipping transfer tax, and Washington estate tax.
Wills and Revocable Trusts
Wills and revocable trusts are devices you can use to provide for the distribution of your estate upon your death. Deciding whether a will or a revocable trust best fits your needs depends on your own personal preferences and probate laws in that state that you reside in (as well as probate laws in other states where you own real property). A revocable trust is a popular alternative to the traditional will because it is not filed with the court upon death (a will is) and avoids probate. A revocable trust avoids probate because the trust owns the assets, not the deceased, and only property in the deceased’s name must go through probate. However, a revocable trust only avoids probate if all assets are held in the trust upon death. In Washington, wills are generally used because of our streamlined probate system (unlike California where the process and attorney fee structure are more complicated). If real property is located in another jurisdiction, a title holdings revocable trust is often recommended to avoid ancillary probate in the other state.
Powers of Attorney
We draft durable general powers of attorney enabling you to appoint one or more persons (attorney-in-fact or agent) to manage your financial affairs and property, either now or in the future. When you make a durable power of attorney for healthcare, you can give your healthcare agent as much or as little power as feels comfortable to you. Our attorneys are here to assist you in recording what authority can be made for your health care should you become unable to make those decisions yourself.
A healthcare directive (sometimes referred to as a living will) expresses your wishes regarding artificial life support and use of heroic means to prolong your life if you are unable to communicate your desires and you have (a) a terminal illness, or (b) you are in a permanent unconscious condition.
A directive regarding the disposition of remains expresses your wishes regarding (a) burial, (b) cremation, (c) composting, or (d) liquid-cremation of your remains. It also states any additional instructions (e.g., cremated remains scattered from a ferry into Puget Sound by spouse and children).
Our attorneys create trusts for use of the gift tax annual exclusion (“Crummey Trust” or “IDGTs”), irrevocable life insurance trusts (“ILITs”), qualified personal residence trusts (“QPRTs”), grantor retained annuity/uni-trusts (“GRATs” and “GRUTs”), and charitable lead/remainder trusts (“CLATs,” “CLUTs,” “CRATs,” and “CRUTs”).
PROBATE AND TRUST ADMINISTRATION
Probate administration services include having the decedent’s will admitted to probate (or an intestate administration commenced if there is no will), appointment of personal representatives, preparation of inventory of assets and liabilities, transferring assets, and making final settlements.
Our probate practice is designed to complete the disposition of clients’ assets in a timely and efficient manner. Our practice includes the preparation of all court filings and, where necessary, federal and state estate tax returns. We also represent estates and beneficiaries in audits by the Internal Revenue Service and the Washington State Department of Revenue.
Our attorneys assist trustees in the administration of trusts. The practice includes preparation of state and federal estate tax returns, audits, transferring assets, and sales of assets.
Our attorneys assist fiduciaries in administration of estates and trusts for the benefit of the beneficiaries.
Charitable giving programs make it possible for clients to contribute to or be active within charitable organizations.Our attorneys serve the legal needs of a wide variety of nonprofit organizations, including charitable organizations, trade associations, private foundations, and charitable trusts. Services include structuring and formation of tax-exempt and nonprofit entities, obtaining exemption determination letters from the IRS, and advising clients on a day-to-day basis about a wide range of non-profit tax and corporate issues.
Formation and Review of Existing Businesses
Our attorneys review business formations and assist in the reorganization of business ownerships to preserve business wealth, retain ownership in the family, and reduce estate tax liabilities. This includes creating family limited liability companies (“LLCs”) or family limited liability partnerships (“LLPs”).
Closely held and family-owned businesses must address the future of the businesses after their founders’ retirement or death. Proper succession planning is imperative to ensure the transfer of the business. In addition, transferring ownership of a family business from one generation to another can be complex and sensitive. Are the heirs active in the business? Do they have the skills and expertise to manage the business? Successful transition minimizes risk and disruption and can assist in preserving wealth.
Our estate planning attorneys understand the legal, financial, and personal complexities in this important matter. We develop a plan with executives and business owners to identify successors to own and manage the business or to plan for its disposition. We then prepare documents, including wills, trusts, buy-sell agreements, and related agreements, to define the owner’s wishes so they can be implemented after the owner’s death without subjecting the family or the business to an unknown situation.