Estate Planning: Will

A will is a legal document that determines what happens to your property after your death. A will states who receives property and in what amounts. It can also be used to name a guardian for any minor children or to create a trust and designate a trustee to handle an estate on behalf of children. A will may designate your executor, to handle your estate and affairs from the time of your death until the estate is settled.

A person does not need to have a large estate to have a will. Anyone who owns property, real (land or house) or personal (cash, stocks, furniture or furnishings), should prepare a will.

In Washington, if a person dies without a will, a Court appoints an administrator to handle the decedent’s affairs, and the property is distributed according to a formula fixed by the law.

A will is valid until it is legally revoked or changed, and becomes effective upon the persons death. In the event of divorce, a will automatically excludes the former spouse unless it expressly states otherwise. Changes are often made by a simple document called a codicil (a supplement to a will), or by drafting a new one.

Drafting a will is an important and sometimes complex matter. It is a critical process that requires legal knowledge, informed decision-making as well as coordination with other estate planning documents. Although “do-it-yourself” forms and kits are available, they many not consider individual circumstances and relationships. A lawyer can assist and advise by analyzing individual circumstances and preferences, drafting valid documents, and avoiding pitfalls that alter intent.