Is it Time to Update your Personal and Estate Planning Documents?

As the end of the year approaches, it is a good time to review your Personal and Estate Planning documents. Personal and Estate Planning documents are essential safeguards for you and your loved ones in case of incapacity or death. It is important to be prepared for unforeseen circumstances and events by having personal planning documents in place that allow decisions to be made and your personal and business affairs to be managed. These documents can help ease concerns for your family and friends during a difficult time. A Durable General Power of Attorney allows you to designate an individual to act as your Attorney-in-Fact and manage your financial affairs in the event you become incapacitated. Similarly, should you be unable to provide informed consent to make a medical decision, a Health Care Durable Power of Attorney permits the individual of your choice to give consent and make necessary decisions regarding your medical care. In regards to end of life decisions, a Health Care Directive contains specific language regarding nutrition/hydration, pain medication and “Do Not Resuscitate”/”No Code” orders. In conjunction with your Health Care Durable Power of Attorney, the Organ Donation and Burial Instructions Declaration allows you to provide a statement indicating your wishes regarding the final disposition of your remains and funeral or life celebration arrangements. Finally, a Will is necessary to provide evidence of your testamentary intent and disposition of your estate to your beneficiaries. If you have minor children a Will helps protect their interests and needs. Having a Will generally makes administration of your estate easier and less expensive for your loved ones, and addresses estate tax issues for both Washington State and the Federal government.

Although you may already have these documents prepared they should be updated in accordance with changes in your life and personal circumstances, as well as Washington State and Federal estate tax laws. It is important to review changes in your assets and their values, in which case you may want to alter your Will or provisions in your Durable General Power of Attorney. Perhaps there have been new additions to your family, such as a child or grandchildren, who you would like to include in your Will. For some families creating a special needs trust for a specific individual is an important part of their plan.

Although Washington State has had marriage equality since 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court decision on marriage earlier this year has personal and estate planning implications to consider. Also, changes in Washington State estate tax law and Federal estate tax law may affect your plans. As recently as 2014, Washington State estate tax laws were significantly revised. These changes include the applicable exclusion amount and an increase in tax rates. The family owned business deduction and its specific requirements may affect you.

It is important to meet with an attorney to review your Personal and Estate Planning documents and discuss the estate planning changes in Washington State and Federal estate tax laws as well as your personal and family circumstances and needs. Please let me know if you have any follow-up questions or concerns.