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What Is a Last Will and Testament?

Estate Planning

A Last Will is what most people think of when they hear the word “will.” In the estate planning context, a will is a legal document that describes how a person’s property will be disposed of after their death. When a person dies without a will, all of their assets are distributed according to state intestacy laws. These laws presume how the person would have wanted their property to be allocated, but often, they do not reflect the wishes of the decedent.

In Washington, for example, under RCW 11.04.015, these intestacy statutes provide that the assets pass to either the surviving spouse, issue, parents, or siblings, depending on the circumstances of the decedent. If the person leaves a surviving spouse and children, the spouse automatically inherits all of the community property and half of the separate property, while the children inherit the other half of the separate property.

Most people want control over what happens to their assets when they die, which is why a properly drafted will is so important. When a person leaves a last will, their wishes supersede the default state laws, and their belongings are distributed according to the will.

A will also gives the decedent the opportunity to name the personal representative of their estate, name guardians for their children, or leave any other directions concerning the administration of their estate.

Consider speaking with an estate planning attorney to discuss the best estate plan for you. At Baxter Legal Services, we work with our clients to understand what types of assets they have and how they want them to be distributed upon their death. While writing a will may seem straightforward, a poorly drafted will can lead to confusion, frustration, and disappointing results, so it is important to make sure that your last will is clearly drafted to minimize the chance of disputes or ambiguities which can make the administration process prolonged and quarrelsome.

Call Baxter Legal Services at 425-686-0574 to discuss your estate plan with one of our experienced Washington attorneys.