• Cliff Coulter

How to Prepare an Estate Plan

Updated: Aug 13, 2020

When it comes to preparing an estate plan, an attorney has everything you need to start planning your estate. Check out some tips or schedule a free consultation by clicking "contact attorney."

Your Estate Plan and Our Blog

Your estate plan guides your future and makes your wishes known. You can also securely keep copies of your estate planning documents online. The estate planning category of our blog has some of the latest information you will need to start planning your estate.

Durable power of attorney

These documents allow someone to literally step into your shoes, speak on your behalf, or make decisions for you. These documents do not end when you become incapacitated and can spring into effect when you become incapacitated.

You can also limit these powers. For example, you power of attorney could be limited to accessing your bank, but only to pay for rent.

General Power of Attorney

These document are very similar to Durable Power of Attorney documents. However, they end when you become incapacitated.

Advanced Healthcare Directive (Living Will)

Directs someone such as a physician to do something when you are in an advanced state of medical duress. If you're in end stages: Do you want ventilator, feeding tude, pain medicine, and/or treatment. This takes a big burden of

Mental Health Power of Attorney/Directive

Works with person affected and works with mental health team that creates a plan. If I am in crisis. I am in sound mind now, but maybe I

What happens when someone goes wild with the POA?

  • You can revoke your power of attorney

  • Sometimes banks want you to sign their own Power of Attorney. As such, take your POA to your banks and make sure they accept it

  • If they do not accept it then you can fill out the power of attorney drafted by your bank's lawyers that is likely specific to that bank

  • Send a letter to the person who is being revoked, along with the revocation

  • You should present your revocation documents to the banks and other people who deal with those powers.


Similar to advanced directive. Hospital may want you to fill out a pulse with them. Advanced directive is more of a portable document.

What happens when you fill out two PULSE documents? The most recent one is most applicable.

Do I need a will?

Maybe not. If you have a will then your heirs will typically have to open a probate. Typically probate is not a big deal. However, it is an expense that you may be able to avoid.

  • You can put beneficiaries on your financial accounts

  • You can put put properties into trust

  • you can use a transfer on death deeds to automatically transfer properties outside of probate

What happens if I do not have a will?

When you do not have a will then your estate has to pass through the intestacy of your specific state. Most people would rather personally decide their last wishes than have their state government decide. In addition, a will makes it less likely for contested probate trials when a will is expressly written. And so I always recommend a Will.

What if I need a will?

If something is not automatically transferred then a will can catch those assets and guide how to distribute the remainder.

As always speak with an estate planning attorney before drafting your very important estate planning decisions.

When would I need a trust?

A trust does not need to go through probate. However, it is typically much more expensive to prepare. Moreover, many people forget to title assets into trust and those assets end up in property anyway.

If you do put properties and bank accounts and you put them into trusts then those assets do not need to pass through probate.

I get a lot of trust questions from people from California because probate is much more expensive there than in Washington. However, unless you have a very large estate I can typically avoid probate for individuals and families with alternative planning.

As always speak to an attorney that can personally draft documents based on your specific personality and needs.

Trusts in WA

In at least four circumstances we recommend looking into trust arrangements. First, if you own property in two different states then a trust may help your beneficiaries avoid the expense of two probates. Second, if your state has statutory attorney's fees for probates. Third, when you have minor children and you would like to withhold their bequests until they reach a certain age. Lastly, if you have assets above the estate tax limit then a trust may be beneficial to avoid a high tax burden.

Proposing a Guardian

It is very important to propose a guardian for your minor child. If you do not have a guardian clause in your will then the state will go through their own process. Which will go through their way the state's process.

Do I need new estate planning documents if I move to a different state?

Generally no. If your estate planning documents are validly drafted in your state then they will be valid in other states you move to as well. Unless, there are specific provisions that invalidate the documents upon moving. For example, a community property agreement may state that it is no longer valid if the parties move to a new state.

Where should I keep my original documents?

You can file the original with the court or you can retain the original. Most people keep their wills in their possession, such as in a safe.

Our law firm securely keeps digital copies of our clients' wills so you always have a backup here.

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