The Washington Estate Planning Blog

Law Offices of David Ravi Sitlani: Helping couples, families, and individuals understand the ins and outs of estate planning in Washington State.

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Archive for June, 2009

What We Can Learn From The Death Of The King Of Pop

Posted by sitlanilaw on June 30, 2009

As a fan, I see the death of Michael Jackson as an unfortunate and tragic event.  It goes without saying that Michael Jackson had quite an impact on our culture and society.  Many of us who grew up in the 80’s can remember attempting a moonwalk or other Jackson-influenced break dancing move when we were young.  Frankly I was surprised at my emotional response to his death because of the connection his life had to my childhood.

As an Estate Planning attorney, I see Michael Jackson’s death as an educational opportunity.  At its very core and from an estate planning perspective this is a case of a single parent passing away with three young children, substantial assets and significant debt.  Certainly for the sake of Michael Jackson’s children I hope he has an appropriate estate plan that provides for his children and other loved ones.

Again, of primary concern are his children.  In Washington state individuals can name a Guardian for their minor children in the event of the death of both parents provided that they have drafted the appropriate estate planning documents.  Michael Jackson was a single parent and it is unclear if he named a Guardian for his children – however Michael Jackson’s mother has been named by the Court to be the children’s temporary Guardian.

The long term care for Michael Jackson’s children is in the hands of the Court.  This should be a clear lesson to all of us.  If you are clear and unambiguous as to who should be named the Guardian of your minor children in your estate planning documents the Court will likely grant your request.  However in the event that you fail to propose a Guardian, the Court, without any instructions from you, will have to decide the individual best suited to care for your minor children.  Unfortunately, this leaves the decision to some degree of chance whereas a well drafted estate plan should provide a parent with piece of mind that their children will be provided for.

Of course, Michael Jackson also has significant assets to pass to his heirs.  I hope that he has a clear and unambiguous estate plan so that his children will be protected.  In Washington State, Trusts, Wills, and other Estate Planning techniques can be used to ensure that the needs of the heirs are met, which will again provide the parent with piece of mind that their children will be cared for.

While sad, the sudden death of Michael Jackson is also quite illustrative of the need to have an Estate Plan in place to ensure that our children and loved ones are cared for in the event of our death or disability.

The above information is not intended to provide the reader with any legal advice.  Please contact an attorney licensed to practice in Washington state with any legal questions.


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More on Green Burials

Posted by sitlanilaw on June 23, 2009

I was recently at an event speaking with Seattle area proffessionals when I raised the topic of Green Burials.  I was surprised at the interest in the topic so I have attached some additional information regarding Green Burials below.

In retrospect maybe I should not have been shocked at the response regarding Green Burials.  The Pacific Northwest is a leader in the Green movement with our emphasis on recycling, composting, and other efforts to preserve the environment.  It clearly makes sense that there is a “natural” connection between being environmentally conscious and deciding to plan for a Green Burial when you die.

Of course there is a natural connection between Green Burials and Estate Planning.  Once you plan your burial (Green or otherwise), it is also wise to review and update your Estate Plan as needed.  Your Estate Plan could also incorporate your desire to protect the environment, e.g. via charitable bequests.  Clearly Estate Planning, environmental awareness, and Green Burials can go hand-in-hand.

As promised here are some interesting story links and websites devoted to Green Burials:

The Green Burial Council:

Wikipedia Entry on Green Burial:

Green Burials in Washington State:



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Beyond Estate Planning: Green Burials in Washington State

Posted by sitlanilaw on June 15, 2009

Recently I discussed the importance of creating a legacy as part of your estate plan.  This can include leaving an educational legacy for future generations in your family as well as making a donation, either while living or as part of your estate plan, to causes and organizations that share your values.

An extention of legacy planning is what happens to our bodies when we are gone.  Green burials are becoming more popular accross the nation, including here in Washington State.  The attached article discusses Green Burials in Washington State and I will contine to post on this topic from time to time.


Some WA funeral directors thinking green

The Associated Press

// <![CDATA[//

BREMERTON, Wash. There have been few formal green funerals in Kitsap County so far. But some of the county’s funeral directors are thinking green could be an important color in their future.

Dave Cook, owner of Cook Family Funeral Home of Bainbridge Island, told the Kitsap Sun his clients were curious about the subject. So he said it’s time funeral directors start thinking about it, too.

“This is the future,” he said. “It’s going to either make or break them.”

Cook now has woven caskets for clients to look at. He said he also is looking into the idea of a natural burial ground in the county.

Rill’s Life Tribute Center of Port Orchard is onboard with Cook already. It’s preparing a piece of ground at Sunset Lane Cemetery that could handle as many as 20 green burials, possibly for biodegradable caskets without liners. It should be ready in a year.

Its funeral director, Dave Rill, said, “I agree with Dave. We need to be open-minded.”

Currently, Western Washington has only one natural burial ground certified by the national nonprofit Green Burial Council, and there are only 15 in the nation. The Meadow near Ferndale, overseen by Moles Family Funeral Services of Bellingham, opened in March and contains one body.

The greening of the industry already has some funeral directors looking ahead and wondering.

Chris Henrickson, president of Lewis Funeral Chapel of Bremerton, said, “Everybody is kind of tippy-toeing into this. How much money do you want to expend on something that might not take off?”

Henrickson said his company’s two cemeteries in Bremerton and Poulsbo could be expanded to include green sections.

Local funeral homes say they have used biodegradable urns for the better part of a decade. Most say ones made for putting out on the water are popular in the county. Made of a cardboard-like material, they pause at the water’s surface, then sink and degrade.

“We can’t keep enough of these at the funeral home,” Cook said.


“I think it’s because we all live so close to the water, and I think it’s just very important to the residents of this area,” said Dave Rasmussen, funeral director at Tuell-McKee Funeral Home of Bremerton.

Information from: Kitsap Sun,

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ABC’s of Estate Planning – Workshop!

Posted by sitlanilaw on June 15, 2009


I wanted to let you know that I am hosting the ABC’s of Estate Planning workshop on Tuesday June 30th at the Mosaic Coffeehouse in Seattle (4401 Second Ave. NE Seattle, WA 98105) at 5pm.  This event is designed for financial proffessionals, small business owners and others who want to learn about estate planning in Washington State.

If interested, please RSVP via either Biznik or e-mail:




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