Despite the repeated entreaties for Washington State residents to take the initiative and create some type of estate plan, many either procrastinate or do not even take the matter seriously. This might be perceived as a problem with younger people, but it can be an issue for everyone regardless of their age, family situation and financial station.
People knowing what an estate plan does can be an effective motivator to get it done. For those who are more concerned about the worst-case scenario, knowing what can happen if they do not have an estate plan can be more of an inspiration to gather information and move forward.
An estate plan gives a person control
Dying without a will is called dying intestate. State law details what happens to a person’s property if this happens. If the decedent was married or in a registered domestic partnership, the surviving spouse or partner will be granted the bulk of the property.
They get the entirety of the property they owned together – their community estate. They will get half the separate property if the decedent had a living child. They will get 75% of the separate estate if there is no surviving child, but one or both parents or one or more siblings. If there are no other living immediate relatives, the surviving spouse will get all the separate property.
It is important to remember how this works when thinking about whether to have an estate plan. The decedent might have wanted to allocate their property differently than the law says if there is no estate plan. Perhaps they preferred their children get specific properties and more than the spouse. There are a seemingly limitless number of combinations as to how they would like their property to be parceled out, but it cannot happen unless they have an estate plan.