1. What are the benefits of having an estate plan?

Although no one wants to think about dying, it is important to plan for that time no matter how old you are or the condition of your health.

  • Be able to financially provide for your family in your absence.
  • Name a guardian for your child(ren).
  • Distribute property to whom you’d like it to go to.
  • Make your own predetermined decisions if you become incapacitated.
  • Name someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf.
  • Save your friends and family from the heartache of making decisions for you.
  • If you are a business owner, plan the future of your business.
  • Arranging care for a child or dependent with special needs

2. When should you get one done?

The sooner, the better. However, if you have children, own a business, or have a significant amount of assets, you should definitely have an estate plan. In Washington, a person who wants to create an estate plan needs to be at least 18 years of age.

3. What happens if you die without an estate plan?

If you die without an estate plan, then state laws will dictate what happens to you and your belongings. In Washington, if you die without a will, the term is “intestate succession.” Under intestate succession, who gets what depends on whether or not you have living children, parents, or other close relatives when you die. Here’s a quick overview provided by nolo.com:

– if you die with children but no spouse

  •  children inherit everything

– if you die with a spouse but no children, parents, or siblings 

  • spouse inherits everything

– if you die with parents but no children or spouse

  • parents inherit everything

– if you die with siblings but no children, spouse, or parents

  • siblings inherit everything

– if you die with a spouse and children 

  • spouse inherits all of your community property and 1/2 of your separate property
  • children inherit 1/2 of your separate property

– if you die with a spouse and parents

  • spouse inherits all of your community property and 3/4 of your separate property
  • parents inherit 1/4 of your separate property

– if you die with a spouse and siblings, but no parents

  • spouse inherits all of your community property and 3/4 of your separate property
  • siblings inherit 1/4 of your separate property

However, the assets that do not pass through a will won’t be affected by intestate succession laws. These are assets such as; property you’ve transferred to a living trust, life insurance proceeds, funds in an IRA, 401(k), or other retirement account, securities held in a transfer-on-death account, payable-on-death bank accounts, or property you own with someone else in joint tenancy. These assets will pass to the surviving co-owner or to the beneficiary you named, whether or not you have a will.

4. What is the difference between an estate plan and a will?

Estate planning is a broad term that includes establishing a will amongst other legally binding documents. Simply having a will does not include everything involved in an entire estate plan.

5. What does a will do and not do?

A will does allow for:

  • Guardianship
  • Assets
  • Real Property
  • Assign an executor to tie the final loose ends

A will does not allow for:

  • Joint tenancy property
  • Property in a living trust
  • Life insurance proceeds that have a beneficiary
  • Retirement Plan proceeds
  • Stocks and bonds held in beneficiary
  • Proceeds from a payable-on-death bank account
  • Arranging care for a child or dependent with special needs

6. What is a revocable trust?

A revocable trust is a trust whereby provisions can be altered or canceled dependent on the grantor or the originator of the trust. During the life of the trust, income earned is distributed to the grantor, and only after death does property transfer to the beneficiaries of the trust. A revocable trust is a part of estate planning that manages and protects the assets of the grantor as the owner ages. The trust can be amended or revoked as the grantor desires and is included in estate taxes.

7. What do you do with an estate plan when someone dies?

Once the owner of an estate plan passes, then the estate administration process begins. During this process, a person’s probate assets are collected, their creditors are paid, and then the remaining assets are distributed to their beneficiaries in accordance with their will. Probate assets are all assets that the decedent owned, in their name alone, when they died. If a person left a will, the will determines the distribution of those assets.

8. Who should be your personal representative in your estate plan?

When determining who should be your personal representative, you will want to choose someone whom you trust. This is the biggest factor to ensure that your last wishes are fulfilled. Usually, the person who is deemed to be personal representative is a spouse or a relative, but that is not a requirement.

Will your power of attorney ever expire?

A power of attorney expires upon the principal’s death.

Let us help you with your estate planning

If you are interested in creating an estate plan, please contact our attorneys at Navigate Law Group to find a solution that fits your needs.

Our Estate Planning Attorneys


Dainen N. Penta

Dainen N. Penta

Senior Attorney

 Josi R. Howard

Josi R. Howard

Senior Attorney

Estate Planning | Estate & Trust Administration

James C. Howe

James C. Howe


​Estate Planning | Estate & Trust Administration | Business Law | ​Real Estate

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Every legal issue is very unique. Accordingly, the information in this blog is intended as general education material and not as legal advice. If you think you may have a legal issue, you should consult an attorney.