Estate Planning/Probate

Common Terms



Instrument for passing property upon your death.  Without a will, your property generally passes to your family according to rules of descent and distribution.


Process for collecting your assets, paying your debt, and transferring your property upon death.  If there is no will, this process is called an estate Administration.  An efficient law firm should be able to handle Probate/Administration with very reasonable, low fees.

Estate Tax

Federal law and sometimes state law taxes the transfer of property upon death.  There are also Gift tax rules.  However, most of this can be avoided due to the Federal Gift and Estate tax credit, currently over $10 million for couples.  These rules are subject to change.

Living Trust

Documented intended to avoid probate.  All assets are transferred into the name of the trust, so that upon death no property is “owned” by the deceased and probate is avoided.  Problems with a living trust may include:  difficult to keep transferring title of assets into name of trust; ongoing trust paperwork requirements; still need a back-up will; benefits of trust may not result for many decades, so that the trouble involved year after year negates the small benefit of saving on legal fees at time of death.

Living Will / Advanced Health Care Directive / Pull-the-Plug

Simplied, if you go into a coma, do you want the doctor to “pull the plug” or “keep you on life support”?

Power of Attorney / Durable Power of Attorney

This document lets you give authority to someone else to handle your financial and certain other matters.  If you want the power to remain in effect after you mentally become unable to make decisions, you should get Durable POA document.

Mental Health Advanced Directive

Some states, including WA, have statues governing mental health advanced directive.  In the document you can provide directions re:  medications, hospital admittance, visitors, etc. in the event you become mentally incapacitated.

Fees / Costs

Charges vary depending on how much attorney assistance you prefer.  If you are comfortable without legal assistance, you can do most of these things for free or very low cost.  We also offer very low prices and a streamlined process, so call for a current price list.