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Simple Wills and Health Care Directives:  Effective, Inexpensive Security

Instestacy, or passing on without a valid will, means that your estate will probably be administered under a Washington statutory process that relies on the Court system to:

  • appoint your Personal Representative, determined according to a list maintained by the state
  • determine whether or not your Personal Representative should administer your estate simply, using Nonintervention Powers
  • charge your estate the premium for a Probate Bond to ensure that the Court's appointed Personal Representative will administer your estate according to law
  • pass all your estate to your heirs, those relatives whom the legislature has determined will receive your property
  • pass your estate to your heirs only in fractional shares as opposed to you determining who gets what
  • ensure that friction will likely develop among your heirs as to who is entitled to manage, use, or dispose of the property they receive, with the intensity of the friction likely increasing substantially as the number of heirs increases
  • pay potentially the maximum amount of estate tax for which your estate could possibly be liable.

If you are survived by a spouse and pass on intestate:

  • your half of the community property will probably pass to your surviving spouse
  • your separate property will pass to one or more persons besides your surviving spouse as a fractional share along with your spouse 

If you are survived by any minor children and pass on intestate:

  • the Court will likely appoint a Guardian to receive any property passing to those children
  • the Court will require the Guardian to deposit any funds or securities into a blocked account, requiring later Court approval for all withdrawal, and to post Bond covering any personal property not deposited into a blocked account
  • each of your minor children will receive his/her gift outright upon attaining age 18 years.

Having a validly prepared and executed Will enables you to:

  • nominate your own list of Personal Representatives and do so in the priority order that you desire
  • specify that you want your Personal Representative to administer your estate using Nonintervention Powers, allowing him/her to administer your estate with more flexibility and legal authority than a Trustee has over a Living Trust
  • waive Bond for your Personal Representative, saving your estate the cost of a Bond premium
  • choose your Beneficiaries, allowing you to give specific property to specific persons and prevent a potential adverse heir from inheriting property from your estate if you so choose
  • provide for substantial estate tax savings
  • provide through a testamentary trust for ongoing management and control over gifts to any of your Beneficiaries, such as children or elderly parents, who may need assistance in the management of the property or to whom you do not want to give your property outright
  • extend past the age of 18 years the age when any child would otherwise receive outright any property left to him/her
  • nominate your own list of Testamentary Trustees

If you are survived by any minor children but not by a spouse, a will permits you to:

  • Nominate your own list of Guardians of their Person, to take care of their personal matters
  • Nominate your own list of Guardians of their Estate, to take care of their financial matters
  • Waive Bond for the Guardian of their Estate, saving their estate the cost of annual Bond premiums

Once completed, you have the option of filing your will in digitized format in the King County Will Repository, where it can be stored for up to 100 years and amended as needed.

Health Care Directive

A Health Care Directive (sometimes called a Living Will or Advance Directive) is a legal document that allows you to express your wishes for medical treatment when you are unable to express them or are near death. The Health Care Directive allows people who clearly do not want their lives prolonged to make their wishes known.

Your Health Care Directive is only used if you have a terminal condition as certified by your physician, where life-sustaining treatment would only prolong the process of dying; or you are certified by two physicians to be in an irreversible coma or other permanent unconscious condition and there is no reasonable hope of recovery.  In either situation, your Health Care Directive allows treatment to be withheld or withdrawn so that you may pass away peacefully and naturally.

In your Health Care Directive, you may also direct whether you would like artificially provided nutrition (food) and hydration (water) stopped in the above situations.  You may also give further written instructions regarding your care.  If you have given someone else authority for making decisions through a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, you may also direct that person to follow and honor your Health Care Directive. You can change or revoke your Health Care Directive at any time.

Your Health Care Directive must be signed by you and two witnesses who are not related to you by blood or marriage and who will not inherit anything from you.  Your witnesses may not be your attending physician, an employee of your attending physician or a health care facility in which you are a patient.

Like your Will, your Health Care Directive and Durable Power of Attrney can be digitally stored, eliminating the need for a safety deposit box if you so choose.  

For more information about Wills, Health Care Directives, or a Durable Power of Attorney,  as well as digital documents storage options, please schedule an appointment at the Law Office of Fred Martens at your earliest convenience.

Phone: 1.206.300.2733   Fax: 1.425.643.6222   Email:

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