Washington State attorneys experienced in estate planning and family law

Dying without a will – two bad ideas

Estate Planning 101

Obviously, we have no control over our death. We do, however, have control over the expression of our wishes and a well drafted set of estate planning documents can avoid a lot of expense and confusion for the people you leave behind.

What happens if I die without a will?  

If you die without a will or you draft a will that is not valid according to Washington law, in legal terms you’ll be considered to have died intestate and any property you have to pass on will be distributed according to what are called the laws of intestate succession. Your heirs  will have to go to court to have themselves or another person appointed as Administrator to ensure that all property passes according to current intestate law.

What are some of the intestate succession rules in Washington State?

In Washington State, if you die while you are married or separated with children your spouse gets your half of community property and one half of separate property, while children take the other half of separate property in equal shares. If you die unmarried or divorced but have children, your children will receive your property in equal shares. Should you have no living children or spouse, but living parents your property will go to them. If you have no living parents, children, or spouse, your siblings will receive your property instead.

What happens to my minor children if I die without a will?

If you die with young children and the children have another living parent custody will most likely default to that parent unless that parents’ rights have been terminated.  If you are a single parent and your child’s other parent has no legal standing, then the situation gets trickier. Ideally any person with minor children will want to draft a will that includes legal and financial guardianship provisions for any minor children.

No one wants to think about death. But failure to adequately prepare could have devastating consequences, leaving your loved ones to deal with difficult choices without an understanding of what YOUR wishes were.[/fusion_text]