My legal practice is closing effective May 13, 2013. I am no longer accepting new clients.


2012 Estate Planning: Gifting examples

Examples of Situations Where Gifting in 2012 Can Reduce Estate Taxes

This post is a follow up to my post earlier this week on the unique opportunities available in 2012 to reduce your estate tax liabilities through gifting strategies. I have included a few examples below to illustrate how individuals or couples might be able to take advantage of the estate and gift tax laws in place this year to reduce their taxable estate and lower the federal and state estate taxes due upon their death by making a one-off large gift in 2012. These examples are for purposes of illustration only and are not meant as a complete how-to guide nor are they attorney advice. If you have a potentially taxable estate or are considering any of these methods, I urge you to talk to an estate planning attorney to more fully assess your options and get appropriate recommendations.

Example 1: The Moderately Wealthy Baby Boomer Couple Read the rest of this entry »


2012 Estate Planning: Gift tax opportunities for Washington residents

Due to current federal and Washington state gift and estate tax laws, along with uncertainty with respect to future changes in these tax rules, this year represents a potential once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many Washington families to reduce their taxable estate and pass on more of their assets to their beneficiaries. If you are a Washington resident and have a moderate to high net worth, there may be unique opportunities available to you to utilize the federal gift tax exemption to move assets outside of your taxable estate for both federal and state taxes. Read the rest of this entry »


Recent local news articles on Estate Planning and Death Taxes

I would like to share a few local Washington state news articles related to estate planning and death taxes. I have talked about the current estate tax system for both Washington State Estate Taxes as well as the IRS imposed federal Estate Taxes in previous posts, but in summary, the current exemptions are $5 million per person at the federal level and $2 million per person at the Washington state level, however the federal exemption is set to revert back to $1 million per person at the end of 2012. The uncertainty surrounding what congress will eventually settle on (the estate tax exemptions and rates at the federal level have changed multiple times in the last few years already) increases complexity and uncertainty into the estate planning process. both of these articles underscore the need to have a flexible estate plan, particularly if your assets (including life insurance) are close to or greater than the state exemption amount of $2 million.

The first article, “Estate planning a thing of the past? Think again” is from the Auburn Reporter and can be found here: The article discusses the current estate tax system and the problem with the uncertainty of what the tax system will look like in the immediate future.

The second article, “McDermott tries again to rewrite estate tax” is from the Seattle Times and can be found here:  This article discusses the possibility that congress may actually lower the exemption amount from 2012 on. The article also discusses the Washington state estate tax.


End of Year Estate Plan Check-Up

Estate Plan Check-Up

It is always a good idea to review your existing estate plan on a regular basis to ensure that it still accomplishes your goals and reflects your current situation. Even if you don’t have a will yet, you still probably have an “estate plan” of sorts – retirement accounts, life insurance, living will or powers of attorney are all elements of your estate plan. Over time, many aspects of your life can change requiring modifications to your estate plan documents to reflect those changes. Such changes can be internal (e.g. your desires regarding who gets what inheritance can certainly change constantly or the decision on who the best person is to act as your personal representative or guardian of your children) and changes can be external (e.g. your estate may have changed in value requiring analysis from a tax perspective or you might have purchased property during the year). What is most important is that you consider the changes that have occurred to you and your family during the previous year or two, re-evaluate what the goals of your estate plan are and then sit down and review your estate plan documents to make sure they are consistent with your goals. These steps can be done on your own or with the help of an attorney knowledgeable in estate planning matters. Read the rest of this entry »


Washington State Intestacy Laws

What happens when you die without a will in Washington State?

In basic terms, instead of your last will specifying how your estate is to be handled, Washington State law determines what happens to your property. Additionally, a court will decide who will act as the guardian of your minor children in the absence of specific directions usually found in a will.  To illustrate how the courts will handle your estate under Washington law if you die without a will (“intestate”), I have provided a “Intestate Will” below. The “intestate will” is essentially a substitute where there is no other will for a Washington resident. Read the rest of this entry »


Aren’t wills only for old people? (or, Why does a young person need a will?)

As an estate planning attorney you would expect me to say that “everyone needs a will!” and, in fact, I do believe that pretty much everyone should have an estate plan in place. I am going to provide my reasoning for making such a statement and I would like to stress a few additional things at the outset of this post which are: 1) Estate plans are much more than just your will and 2) Estate plans are not just for old people. Read the rest of this entry »


Washington State Estate Taxes

I am often asked about the taxes that could be levied on an estate by the IRS. While the federal estate tax can be significant for those with very large estates, changes to the law at the end of 2010 exempted nearly all estates from such taxes as well as allowing spouses to give their exemptions to the other that survives them when it might otherwise be wasted, the Washington State estate tax is levied on much more modest estates. In simple terms, the IRS does not tax an estate less than $5 million, or $10 million if it is the combined estate of a married couple. Read the rest of this entry »


Online wills prepared by a Washington State attorney.

Get an online will prepared by a Washington State attorney without the inconvenience of going to an attorneys office or trying to find time to schedule an appointment.

My Virtual Law Office offers my clients the ability to work with me online at their convenience to prepare a customized estate plan to meet their specific needs without the need to meet in person. Like many other services that offer online wills, I utilize a series of questionnaires to figure out your individual planning goals, circumstances and needs. However, I also emphasize the use of online and telephone discussions to complement the questionnaires to make sure that any issues or questions are resolved promptly and professionally by an attorney. I do not use paralegals or customer service representatives at any point in the provision of my legal services. Read the rest of this entry »


What to look out for when reviewing your existing estate plan.

Congratulations! You have an existing estate plan in place to protect yourself and your loved ones should anything happen to you. Shockingly, you are in the minority (yes, the majority of Americans do NOT have a will, powers of attorney or health care directives in place) but you can’t control what other people are doing so you are focusing on your own plan. Also, you are taking the initiative to review your existing estate plan to see if it needs to be updated. There are a variety of reasons to update your estate plan but it also makes sense to occasionally review your documents to make sure they accomplish what your current goals and needs are (which may have changed over the years).

Here are a few things to consider when reviewing your estate plan documents: Read the rest of this entry »

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