- Last Will and Testament – A document by which a person directs his or his estate to distributed upon death.
Most people do not have a high level of interaction with the courts in their lifetime. Perhaps that’s why so few have set up a will. Incredibly, according to the statistics presented by Forbes magazine in 2014, more than half of Americans between ages 55 and 64 don’t have wills.These figures get more dismal as the age bracket examined becomes younger.
Many people think of wills as merely dividing up their money and land. As such, they don’t imagine they’ll need a will if they aren’t leaving behind six-figure bank accounts and multiple vacation homes. However, this notion is misguided.
A last will and testament is, generally, an individual’s last chance to give legally binding instructions for the disposition of his or her assets after death. If someone dies intestate (without a will) in the State of Washington, the state will make the decision regarding division of the deceased person’s property. Broadly speaking, the law requires that, in intestate estates, certain percentages of assets go to next of kin. (For example, 50% to the deceased person’s spouse and 50% to his or her children in equal shares). The laws do consider whether property items are community or separate property, but otherwise, no discretion is allowed.
If something unexpected happens, a will ensures that necessary funds go to those who require them. A comprehensive and well-crafted will can contain more than general provisions for your loved ones and their futures. Making a list in your will of items that have sentimental value to family members could avoid a fierce and expensive legal contest later. For example, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s family settled the question of who had the rights to his Nobel Prize and personal travel bible in August 2016. As you may recall, he died in April 1968.
In very rare cases in which no will is found, and no heirs are found, the decedent’s assets may escheat to the State of Washington. This means the state will claim the assets for itself. Most likely, no individual would intentionally leave all of his or her property to the state.
Be aware that, during probate estate administration, debts must be considered. It is very important to consider how any debt will affect the calculations in setting up a will. Debts take precedent over the Decedent’s wishes in his or her will, meaning that generally the debts will be paid off first. The State of Washington lists, in order of priority, the payment of debts during a probate estate administration. [RCW 11.76.110]. For example, any taxes owed to American or foreign governments must be paid before any of the heirs’ claims will be paid. There are some exceptions of course.
It is absolutely critical that your last will and testament is drafted carefully and comprehensively, in order to gain the benefits of having such a document.Although this website will provide some basic information regarding a will and its suggested contents, use of this website is not a substitute for a lawyer; and of course, we do not represent you as your lawyer. Your issues and concerns are unique to you and should be considered carefully. If you have any questions, please consult the services of an attorney.