Establishing a will or trust and other associated estate planning tools, is not a once-in-a-lifetime process. Laws and circumstances change making the documents inappropriate. If your will or trust is over 10 years old (and a good idea at 5 years), you NEED to pull it out and give it a thorough review. After you read it, ask yourself these questions:
If you answered yes to any of the above, you should have your estate planning attorney review the documents and suggest appropriate updates. Even if your trust is irrevocable, you may have options to decant (distribute the assets to a new, but similar trust) or make amendments to it under your particular state laws, like Washington.
We love to educate our clients about the options and techniques available to them as well as how trusts and estates work. See some of our answers to frequently asked questions and common misconceptions on our website. For assistance with Spokane and Washington state wills, trusts, probate, trust administration, and business formation and succession, call Megan Lewis Law, PLLC at (509) 242-3432 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are moving to our new office (905 S. Monroe) this week! The new space is coming along, with plenty of work to do still, but we should be in and operational by the end of the week. Here's a few interior sneak peaks and a view from the upper deck out across to Huckleberry's Natural Market and Ace Hardware on the South Hill in Spokane. We are excited for more space, easier handicap access, and better parking. Hopefully, as covid concerns continue to decline, we can have a grand opening celebration at some point this spring or summer.
We're moving, but not far and not quite yet! The new address will be 905 S. Monroe, directly across the street from the Huckleberry's, Ace Hardware, and Swinerton Builders on the south hill of Spokane. It's scary to make a big commitment during these uncertain times and we love our beautiful current space, but are outgrowing it a little and would love dedicated client parking and better handicap accessibility (a short walk or roll around the veranda from the parking in the back). The location couldn't be better for the clients we work with and only a few blocks from our current location!
With covid-19, we want the flexibility to meet clients outside for document signings, but still be somewhat protected from the elements, which we will have the option to do immediately. We don't have a timeline yet for a full move, but hope to complete it at the end of the year or early next year after it receives a little renovation and set up. Until then, if we need a covered outdoor space to sign documents, we will begin using our new wrap-around veranda for that, which is on the same level as the parking in the back! For now, we will remain where we are (and often working from home) and still primarily meet with clients by phone, Zoom, Facetime, or whatever other mechanism we can to accommodate safe interactions. Stay tuned for updates and progress news!
We are excited to accommodate more clients since we are feeling the community's need to prepare for or deal with the inevitable, particularly with the recent record numbers positive tests and hospital admissions due to covid-19 in our area. We love to educate our clients about the options and techniques available to them. See some of our answers to frequently asked questions and common misconceptions on our website. For assistance with Spokane wills, trusts, probate, trust administration, and business formation and succession, call Megan Lewis Law, PLLC at (509) 242-3432 or email email@example.com.
wantTo probate or not to probate, that is the question. The internet is full of useful, and not so useful, information. Countless articles are written about probate and estate planning from a framework of fear, not proactive organization. The avoidance of probate at all costs is a perfect example, especially in Washington state where our probate process is not as onerous as other states.
In our practice, we assist clients in all stages of the planning and implementation process. In general, "probate" is the process by which a will is put into action through approval of the court and a "Personal Representative" is given the legal authority to manage the process. If there is no will to follow, the law provides defaults for where assets go and who gets to be in charge. This is typically required for estates over a total of $100k or including any real estate. The probate laws, or statutes, provide us with a certain number of steps to follow at certain intervals in order to make sure that creditors are paid or cancelled out, that assets are gathered, and that the individuals entitled to receive inheritances, do, in fact, receive them. If there are disagreements or disputes, the probate laws give us a mechanism to figure those conflicts out, through the court or otherwise. The process should not be feared, but can be time consuming and confusing. An experienced probate attorney can guide you to understand whether you actually need to open a full probate for your loved one's estate or if there are other options available to you. They can also advise and lead you through each step of the process, letting you know what comes next and specific tasks you need to accomplish. An attorney can let you know if, as the Personal Representative, you have the authority or discretion to make certain decisions and what actions would likely violate the law or cause conflict with beneficiaries.
The cost of a probate varies greatly, mostly depending on the complexity of the estate, number of debts, and disagreements among beneficiaries. Each type of asset has its own requirements in the process, so a very valuable asset may be easy to deal with while a practically worthless asset may be a pain in the rear to clear out. In Washington, neither the State nor the attorney typically take or charge a percentage of the estate. Attorneys generally charge their or their staff's hourly rate for work actually done on the project. You can minimize cost by ensuring that your loved one's assets, accounts, and affairs are in order and streamlined. A person with an up-to-date Will and beneficiary designations that aren't conflicting will have a much easier probate.
Also, if you want to eliminate court involvement and operate with a bit more flexibility (and often save money in the long run), you may transfer your assets into a revocable living trust. Assets in a trust avoid probate. There are other, much more important, reasons to have a revocable living trust, but avoiding probate is also one of the minor benefits of having a trust in the state of Washington. Even with a trust, some of the same process needs to be followed to "administer" the trust according to the terms within the trust. For example, creditors still need to be paid or dealt with, assets still need to be inventoried and valued (or appraised), and beneficiaries still need to receive their inheritance as directed by the legal terms of the trust. A step by step approach can make this process manageable. Again, getting legal advice about your rights and responsibilities regarding these steps, either as the fiduciary (Personal Representative, executor, trustee, etc.) or beneficiary, can prevent a huge deal of conflict and liability down the road and ease the stress of going through the process in general.
If a loved one has died without a current well-written will or trust, the world will not likely end even if their wishes are unknown or unmet as a result. However, the people left behind to deal with assets and issues do need to deal with them. Inaction can cause its own problems, such as leaving the deceased's name on accounts or real estate that eventually have to be dealt with, usually when someone wants to sell an asset and can't do it until the probate is in progress, or beneficiaries start complaining of mismanagement or unmet duties.
Megan Lewis Law, PLLC can provide you with the information, education, and legal advice necessary to take it all one step at a time. We can often conduct meetings virtually to continue our current social/physical distancing policies, for convenience, or because you live elsewhere in Washington. We can serve clients all across Washington state. Call Megan Lewis Law, PLLC at (509) 557-7797 or fill out a contact request for help with opening a probate, administering a trust, or getting estate planning put in place.
We are currently conducting all meetings by web/phone conference (FaceTime, WhatsApp, Zoom, etc.), except for final signings. The legislature approved, and the governor signed, electronic notarization of documents on April 26, 2019, under very specific rules and requirements, but it wasn't set to go into place in Washington until October 2020. Recently, Governor Inslee approved a temporary immediate use proclamation of this statute until the end of April (effective March 27 2020 through April 26, 2020). However, this does not change the requirement that Wills and certain other documents have to be physically witnessed. We are currently conducting signings with a "drive thru" option where clients remain in their cars and we provide documents on a clipboard, and other low-contact/low-exposure methods depending on each situation. We are working to get our notary licenses updated and our software in place to provide electronic notary services and we are continuing to monitor our options and provide the most effective method of getting wills, trusts, power of attorney, health care directives, and other Washington estate planning and probate documents in place for our clients. For help with Washington estate planning and probate, call Megan Lewis Law, PLLC at (509) 981-3739 or visit our website to fill out a direct contact form.
Office Update - We're working virtually as much as possible. The signing of Wills requires that witnesses and notary be in the same room and many people are concerned with getting things in order at the moment (wills, powers of attorney for finances and health care, health care directives), so we are open for business for the time being. If you need to get your planning started, we will conduct the initial meeting by phone or web conference/chat in order to talk about options, advice, and preferences.
However, we will keep as much physical distance between individuals as possible (4 feet minimum) and no physical contact (handshakes or hugs - yes, I regularly hug my clients under normal circumstances). Luckily our office is low-traffic, so we have less exposure than many. We are not accepting drop-in clients and all final documents will be mailed to clients and not held for personal pick up.
We are also keeping an eye on the court status for our probate clients with cases that require court filings, especially to open probates to gain access to estate assets. Many courts are closing or restricting access.
As expected, everything is subject to change.
Happy New Year! Spring is on the horizon; work and life are busy. It seems this industry of estate planning, trust administration, and probate is on the rise. We have so many wonderful clients with interesting issues and get more calls every day. We see young families protecting their children on a regular basis, but more often we see successful working people on the verge or retiring now looking to protect the assets they worked hard for and pass on their nest egg to their children and grandchildren in a way that makes the most sense, if they can't find fun ways to spend it first. By the year 2030, all of the Baby Boomer generation is said to be over 65 with 10,000 people now reaching that mark every day. 1. Many of these people are still caring for their own parents, while helping with their children and grandchildren. It is common to let other issues take priority over estate planning until we feel it's "necessary" or until we see and feel limiting physical or mental conditions. We anticipate finding an experienced estate planning attorney will be easy, but don't expect to find that many of the attorneys in the industry are retiring as well, that new attorneys don't have much experience or that those in the middle will have full practices.
Plans should be put into place well before problems arise, since it's too late if we wait until incapacity creeps up on us. The alternative often requires much more time and expense using the court system to gain guardianship over a person. It is also important to not only have a plan in place, but to understand the plan and educate the future decision makers (fiduciaries) about the plan and your expectations for executing that plan. At Megan Lewis Law, we spend time educating our clients about the general workings of wills, trusts, powers of attorney, probate court, and other issues they just don't face every day. We discuss assets, family dynamics, desires for a legacy, and potential income and estate tax issues affecting both clients and their children or grandchildren. Our practice is busy and we can't take all the potential new clients coming to us, but we do our best to help as many people as possible. We also let our potential clients know how we approach our practice, what kinds of cases we focus on and if we can't help them, we try to give them referral resources. For assistance with Spokane area wills, powers of attorney, revocable living trusts, irrevocable trusts, trust administration, and probate, please call our office at (509) 557-7797 or send us a message. We can also take clients from across Washington and work by phone and email.
1. 2020 Census Will Help Policymakers Prepare for the Income Wave of Aging Boomers, Census.gov.
Fall is in the air and the kids are back to school. After a busy summer, it's time to find a regular routine and take care of things that fell off the to do list. One of those tasks is getting your estate planing documents in place or up-to-date. Estate planning includes wills, powers of attorney, health care directives, funeral directives, community property agreements and a number of other documents. These are particularly vital to have in place if you have minor children to ensure that your children will be cared for by the person of your choice (instead of one chosen by the court) and that money you leave for them will be guarded and spent by a trusted family member on your terms, not someone else's. You will also be able to determine the age you want your children to take control of or receive the money you leave for them which is almost always a later age than the legal default. Other benefits of estate planning can be to avoid probate, minimize estate tax expenses, ensure your own health care decisions are made by an appropriate person, and more.
The process isn't scary or complicated and can be easily started with a phone call. Costs vary based on the complexity of your planning needs, but we can typically give you an estimate after a brief conversation about your situation on that first phone call. You don't have to know all the answers or even have the right questions before calling because we will walk you through the process step by step. After the first phone call, we send you an engagement letter outlining the process and an intake questionnaire to help you gather necessary information. Our initial meeting typically lasts about an hour to discuss all the different options, pros and cons of various choices, substantive education about the estate planning and probate laws applicable to your situation, and next steps. Then, we typically have enough information to get drafts of your documents prepared for your review and editing. Finally, a second meeting where we walk through it one more time and execute the plan. You end up with a small binder of documents with an index of each one, listing who you named for each role and some initial steps for those people to follow when something happens to you.
For Spokane estate planning, or virtual estate planning for other Washington state locations, call Megan Lewis Law, PLLC at (509) 557-7797 or fill out our contact form to send us a message requesting we call or email you.
Our office is sponsoring and participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer's on Saturday October 5, 2019. Megan's father is currently suffering with Alzheimer's and our office has assisted many clients plan for that possibility themselves and to manage the aftermath of estate and trust administration. Please join us to walk with Megan Lewis Law, PLLC in support, donate and fund raise to support the cause.
We are in the process of moving to a new space! We've loved practicing out of my home and the connection it's brought to the attorney/client relationship when discussing plans for death and incapacity or dealing with the loss of a loved one and associated administrative issues. However, with celebrating a full year of having legal assistant, Seth Hinnen, on board, we're just outgrowing the space. We will now be at the Corbet Aspray historical house at 820 W 7th Ave, Spokane, WA right between Deaconess Hospital and the Marycliff Center. We chose this location because it still has a warm, comfortable, personal feel with beautiful spaces and grounds, but gives a little more room to serve our estate planning, probate, and business clients. More details and photos of this beautiful space to come!
For a Spokane estate planning attorney, or assistance with Washington state estate planning, probate and trust administration, call Megan Lewis Law, PLLC at (509) 557-7797 or complete our contact form. Our office provides local service for Spokane estate planning and can provide online virtual web and phone conferencing for estate planning in Seattle, Olympia, Tri Cities, Bellingham and other areas of Washington state.
Megan M. Lewis