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What Do I Need for a Great Estate Plan?

You may not believe it, but mostly everyone has an estate. By having a car, a house, furniture, investments, and banking accounts, to name a few, you have the right to pass tangible items on to others in the future.

In making a great estate plan, you’ll want to consider five main areas of focus:


A will is essential for anyone regardless of their age, marital status, or economic situation. By having a will, your loved ones have a legal document directing who you would like to receive your assets, and if included, at what time they should receive those items in the event of your passing. It’s important to have a will in place because if not, the state determines how your assets are to be distributed. Additionally, if you have children, you can name a guardian for them in the will. A will also allows you to appoint a representative, or executor, to make sure your wishes are carried out.


Having a trust is similar to a will in that it can provide clarity for your family and beneficiaries on how you would like assets distributed. There are several types of trusts that exist, including:

  • living trusts;
  • revocable trusts;
  • irrevocable trusts;
  • charitable trusts; and,
  • pet trusts.

Of the different types of trusts, a living trust is the most common because it is created while you are alive. In a living trust, you name the person to act as the trustee, and at your passing, it is the trustee’s responsibility to pass along your assets to your beneficiaries as you have laid out in the trust documents.

Power of Attorney

Naming a power of attorney allows you to have someone you’ve previously designated make important decisions for you in situations such as:

  • if you are no longer mentally capable of making a decision;
  • if a medical decision needs to be made on your behalf; and,
  • handling financial or other legal matters on your behalf.

By naming a power of attorney, they are not allowed to change your will, make decisions on behalf of you after your passing, or transfer their power of attorney responsibilities to someone else. When designating a power of attorney, ensure that this person is willing to take on the duties should they be asked to carry them out.

Advance Health Care Directives to Direct End-of-Life Medical Care

In Washington, you are eligible to receive life-saving treatment whether you have an advance health care directive in place or not. If you would like your wishes made ahead of time, it’s best to have the directive made in advance. When thinking about an advance health care directive, there are four steps you should keep in mind:

  • deciding what your preferred wishes are;
  • talking about your preferred wishes with loved ones and family members;
  • making sure wishes are officially documented; and,
  • reviewing your wishes periodically and updating them as needed.

Beneficiary Designations

When filling out paperwork for a new job or elsewhere, you’ll most likely see the question - who are your beneficiaries? A beneficiary can include your spouse, children, other relatives, friends, or even charitable organizations.

There are two types of beneficiary designations — pay-on-death and transfer-on-death. With a pay-on-death designation, the beneficiary or beneficiaries will be “paid” their designated portion from the account after your passing. With a transfer-on-death designation, the beneficiary will be transferred ownership of the asset. Both designations are valuable for beneficiaries to know about ahead of time so that they are prepared for the option you have chosen.

Preparing to plan your estate can be overwhelming. That’s why you want an attorney on your side who knows what they’re doing to make the process as peaceful as possible. When you’re ready to begin your estate planning, contact Jerimy Kirschner & Associates, PLLC. A free initial consultation will put your mind at ease and provide you with what you need to know when you’re estate planning.