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Wills and Trusts

Most people want a plan for what happens after they’re gone. That’s where wills and trusts come in.

With a will, you’re leaving instructions for the distribution of your money and property after your death. Wills can also be used to address other matters. For instance, you could specify whether or not you would like to be kept on life support, if such a situation were to arise.

With a trust, you create a legal entity that holds your assets. The assets in the trust are managed by your appointed trustee. The trustee also distributes the trust’s assets to your designated beneficiary or beneficiaries according to distribution guidelines that you set. Trusts are usually more expensive to set up than wills.

The trustee has a fiduciary duty to the trust. That is, the trustee must place the interests of the trust before any personal interests.

Your trustee could even be a trust company, a company that provides fiduciary and wealth management services.

In Washington State, probate is at least a four-month process of determining your will’s validity, inventorying your assets, and paying debts and taxes. Only then can the remainder be transferred to your heirs.

Before a will can be executed, it must go through probate. That is, the court must find the will to be valid and enforceable. This process could be costly, and involves both court and attorney fees. A trust, on the other hand, does not need to go through the probate process.

Another option is durable financial power of attorney. That’s when you designate someone to handle your financial affairs if you become ill or incapacitated.

Laws are always changing, so it’s best to consult an attorney if you’re considering any estate planning. A competent attorney should be able to recommend the choice that best suits your needs.

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