Glossary

  • Attorney-in-Fact

    The person designated as your decision-maker in a health care or financial power of attorney. This person should be 100% trustworthy as they are given a lot of authority without much oversight.

  • Beneficiary

    A person entitled to property under your Will.

  • Community Property Agreement

    An agreement where two spouses can agree that all of their property is community property, regardless of how it was received by them, and that they want all of their community property to be distributed to the surviving spouse on their death. This document trumps a Will and is typically used to skip probate after the death of the first spouse.

  • Custodian

    The adult appointed to manage and access an account for the benefit of a minor child under the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act.

  • Disposition Authorization

    The document where you direct your family to cremate or bury your remains. If you don’t have this, your family members may argue about it after you die, so it’s nice for them to have a directive in writing, from you.

  • Estate Plan

    A basic estate plan to include a Will, Health Care Power of Attorney, Financial Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Directive, and Disposition Authorization. Your plan should also consider your beneficiary designations on retirement accounts or life insurance to make sure they match the plan you create here.

  • Estate tax

    In Washington, your estate will NOT pay an estate tax if it is under $2,193,000. Anything over that will be taxed and your estate will have to pay the tax before distributing the estate to your beneficiaries. The federal government also has an estate tax, which says that anything over $11,200,000 will be taxed. When calculating the value of your estate, it is safe to include everything in your name, including the equity in your house, bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, death benefits from a life insurance policy, etc.

  • Executor

    The person who you choose to “take care of business” after you have died. This should be someone you trust and has a certain level of sophistication about business matters. It should also be someone who can work well with your family and other beneficiaries of your estate.

  • Financial Durable Power of Attorney

    A document where you appoint a person to make financial decisions for you when you become incapacitated and can no longer make those types of decisions.

  • Gross Estate

    The total value of all property you own, including property you control, at your death. This includes, without limitation, real estate, personal property, retirement accounts, life insurance proceeds, annuities, etc.

  • Guardian

    The person appointed to be the legal representative and caretaker for a minor child until the child turns 18 (assuming the other surviving parent is also deceased). This should be someone who is familiar with the child, knows your wishes for that child, and is willing to take on the job.

  • Health Care Directive

    A document where you can decide whether you want life-sustaining procedures and/or drugs for pain if you are in a “permanent unconscious condition” or a “terminal condition”. This document only applies when a doctor(s) says it does. People typically use a health care directive (aka “living will”) to indicated that they do not want life-sustaining procedures (food and water) but it is a nice thing for your family to have either way so they don’t have to make the decision for you.

  • Health Care Durable Power of Attorney

    A document where you appoint a person to make medical and health-related decisions for you when you become incapacitated and can no longer make those types of decisions.

  • Heir

    A person entitled to property under state law (but maybe not your Will).

  • Nonprobate Assets

    Those assets that pass outside of a Will because they have a beneficiary designated or there is another owner that takes full ownership when you die. For example: joint bank accounts, 401(k) with a beneficiary named.

  • Permanent Unconscious Condition

    An incurable and irreversible condition in which a person is medically assessed within reasonable medical judgment as having no reasonable probability of recovery from an irreversible coma or a persistent vegetative state. This is when a Health Care Directive may be used.

  • Principal

    The person signing a power of attorney to direct who will make decisions for them if that person becomes incapacitated.

  • Probate

    The legal process to get assets out of the name of a deceased person and into the name of that person’s heirs. Probate in Washington State takes some time but is not as onerous as in most states and is, in fact, a pretty streamlined process (despite what TV shows might lead you to believe). During probate, an executor will liquidate assets, pay bills, pay taxes, identify creditors, inventory the estate, and – ultimately – distribute the estate. If an estate has over $100,000 or real estate, it will likely have to go through the formal probate process.

  • Residue

    The remainder of an estate after all expenses, bills, debts, and taxes have been paid. This is what will be distributed to the beneficiaries in a Will.

  • Specific Gift

    A gift of specific property in a Will. For example, “I give my 2010 Toyota Highlander to my son.”

  • Terminal Condition

    An incurable and irreversible condition caused by injury, disease, or illness, that would within reasonable medical judgment cause death within a reasonable period of time in accordance with accepted medical standards, and where the application of life-sustaining treatment would serve only to prolong the process of dying. This is when a Health Care Directive may be used.

  • Testator

    The person signing a Will.

  • Uniform Transfers to Minors Act

    A law in Washington that allows you to designate an adult that will manage money in a special account for a child under 18 years old. You can extend that management to the child’s  21st or 25th birthday. The money will be available for the child until that age, but only the designated adult can access it for them.

  • Will

    A document that you sign to tell those that survive you who will be in charge of your estate (as executor) and who will get your property when you die. A Will doesn’t mean you avoid probate but it does make probate a lot easier.