A. Advanced Directive to Physicians: Commonly called “Living Will”, is a letter of instruction to a physician which states that the signer does not want to have his or her life artificially prolonged if he or she is in an irreversible, vegetative state and diagnosed with a terminal condition, where the application of artificial support only prolongs death and cure. It must be witnessed and signed. These are highly encouraged.

B. Powers of Attorney: There are Special Powers of Attorney and General and Durable Powers of Attorney. In a General and Durable Power of Attorney, the signer appoints another person to make decisions for the signer in the event of incapacity or immediately in the areas of health care and/or finances. A Special Power of Attorney is used for special situations such as sale of property or decision making for a specified time period. Most people need a Power of Attorney for Health Care and Financial Decisions. These are very important and STRONGLY recommended. If a person becomes incapacitated and does not have a POA, generally family members must proceed with a legal action through Guardianship to make decisions. Guardianships are not only intrusive, but also expensive and court monitored.

C. Power of Appointment: A Power of Appointment is conferred by one person by Deed or Will upon another (called the “Donee”) to select persons who are to receive and enjoy an estate or income from an estate after the testator’s death or the donee’s death.

D. Community Property Agreement: Community Property Agreements are used to avoid probate at the death of the first spouse. Washington, a community property state, allows the surviving spouse to file a Community Property Agreement stating that all assets are community property and therefore should go automatically to the surviving spouse at the death of the first spouse.

E. Prenuptial (or Property) Agreement: Agreement between parties designating how their property is characterized – separate, community, or mixed. Even if a marriage is not anticipated, community property is presumed in WA in many cases, so property agreements are often necessary to avoid the presumption of “community property.”