It’s been in the news a lot lately – Aretha Franklin died without a will. This is true for 50% of all U.S. estates, unfortunately. Don Wilson, Ms. Franklin’s attorney, probably said it best on why this was a mistake: “It would have expedited things and kept them out of probate and kept things private,” he said. “I just hope (Franklin’s estate) doesn’t end up getting so hotly contested. Any time they don’t leave a trust or will, there always ends up being a fight.”

What Benefits Does a Will Provide?

I serve the Snohomish and King counties out of an office in Bothell. I am happy to help you avoid Ms. Franklin’s mistake.

A will has multiple benefits. Here are some examples:

  1. Decides who gets your property when you die. A will allows you to decide who will get your stuff; without a will, or a living trust, you’re at the mercy of Washington State law. The legal term for this is called “intestate,” and the default is a one-size-fits-all default will. Basically, the Washington State legislature is deciding how your property will be split up – they guessed how most people would want it if they didn’t explicitly specify their wishes. Here’s how it works if there is a surviving spouse:
    • If a spouse survives, that spouse gets all community property of the marital community.
    • Additionally, the surviving spouse takes one-half of the decedent’s separate property if the decedent had surviving children or their descendants.
    • If the decedent had no surviving children or descendants, the surviving spouse receives three-quarters of the decedent’s separate property. His surviving parents take one-quarter of the decedent’s separate assets.
    • If a spouse survives, and the decedent had neither surviving children nor surviving parents, the spouse takes all of the decedent’s separate property.

    If a spouse doesn’t survive the decedent, or if the spouse is not entitled to a portion of the estate, then here’s how it is split:

    • Decedent’s children, including adoptees and relatives, in proportion to the degree of kinship to the decedent.
    • If none, then to decedent’s parents.
    • If none, then to decedent’s parent’s children (the decedent’s siblings and half-siblings) by representation (if applicable, decedent’s nieces and nephews).
    • If none, then to decedent’s grandparents, with equal shares to mother’s parents and father’s parents.
      If none, then to decedent’s grandparents’ descendants (decedent’s cousins) by representation.
    • If none, then to the State of Washington, which property is then said to “escheat to the State.” This provision is not part of Washington’s intestacy statute, but forms an essential consideration in what happens to the property of a person with no Will upon death.
  2. You’re able to name an executor. Someone needs to wrap things up and you get to choose who. Otherwise, the court will appoint someone to do it for you.
  3. You can name a guardian to take care of your children. Otherwise, the court will decide who should take care of the kids.
  4. You get decide who takes care of your children’s inheritance and how it should be managed.
  5. You can appoint someone to take care of your pet.
  6. And finally, provide a back-up for your living trust. Any property not named in the trust isn’t handled by the trust. A will is a catch-all for this non-trust-specified property.

Contact Chad Foster to discuss your divorce case with a Washington family law attorney you can trust.

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