Basic Estate Planning
Wills
Trusts
Advanced Directives and Power of Attorney

Basic Estate Planning

No matter your net worth, it is important to have a basic estate plan in place to ensure that your property and financial assets are not distributed contrary to your wishes or wasted after you die. At a minimum, an estate plan typically consists of a will, a power of attorney assignment, and a health care proxy or living will. Beyond these basic elements, a trust may be necessary in some cases. Your assets include your investments, retirement savings, insurance policies, real estate and possibly your business interests. Three questions naturally arise: Whom do you want to inherit your assets? Whom do you want handling your financial affairs if you’re ever incapacitated? Whom do you want making medical decisions for you if and when you become unable to make them for yourself. Inheritance can be an emotionally loaded issue. Discussing your estate plans with your heirs may prevent family disputes and confusion. Be clear about your intentions and you will reduce the likelihood of conflicts after you’re gone.

People with sizable estates are even in greater risk of loss of control and loss of assets if they do not create an estate plan. Planning for such estates has become quite complicated. Having a trusted and competent estate-planning lawyer is essential if you wish to protect as much of your assets from federal and state taxes as possible. An estate planning lawyer can create legal documents, offer advice, keep your estate plan current with new laws and help administer the disposition of assets when needed. Don’t delay, take stock of your assets, consider your loved ones and call me today.

If you choose me as your lawyer, I pledge to work with you to set and accomplish your goals by whatever means are necessary. Protecting and furthering your interests will be my chief concern. You may initiate contact with me through this web site, which is a secure means of communication. Simply click on the Contact menu and fill out and submit the email form in the right side bar. Alternatively, you may call me directly at 503-686-0981. Note that my two offices are conveniently located in Hillsboro and in Tualatin, Oregon, and I serve the Hillsboro, Beaverton, Tigard, Tualatin, Sherwood, and Lake Oswego communities. I look forward to meeting you and working together with you to solve your legal problem.

Wills

A will describes how you want your assets distributed after you have passed away. It is also the best place to name guardians for your children. Dying without a will, known legally as dying intestate, can be costly to your heirs and prevents you from deciding who gets your assets and property. Intestacy laws vary considerably from state to state. In general, though, if you die and leave a spouse and children, your assets will be split between your surviving spouse and children. If you’re single with no children, then the state is likely to decide who among your blood relatives will inherit your estate. Even if you have a trust, you still need a will to take care of your holdings outside of that trust when you die. A trust is a legal mechanism that lets you put conditions on how your assets are distributed after you die and it often lets you minimize gift and estate taxes. But you still need a will since most trusts deal only with specific assets such as life insurance or a piece of property, but not the sum total of your holdings. Even if you have a revocable living trust in which you can put the bulk of your assets, you still need a “pour-over” will. In addition to letting you name a guardian for your children, a pour-over will ensures that all the assets you intended to put into the trust are put there even if you fail to properly re-title some of them before your death.

You may amend your will at any time. In fact, it’s a good idea to review it periodically and especially when your marital status changes. At the same time, review your beneficiary designations for your 401(k), IRA, pension and life insurance policy since those accounts will be transferred automatically to your named beneficiaries when you die.

Trusts

Trusts are legal mechanisms that let you put conditions on how and when your assets will be distributed upon your death. They also allow you to reduce your estate and gift taxes and to distribute assets to your heirs without the cost, delay and publicity of probate court, which administers wills. Some also offer greater protection of your assets from creditors and lawsuits.

Do you have a sizable amount of your assets is in real estate, a business or an art collection? Do you want to leave your estate to your heirs in a way that is not directly and immediately payable to them upon your death? For example, you may want to stipulate that they receive their inheritance in three parts, or upon certain conditions being met, such as graduating from college. Do you want to support your surviving spouse, but also want to ensure that the principal or remainder of your estate goes to your chosen heirs after your spouse dies? Do you and your spouse want to maximize your estate-tax exemptions? Do you have a disabled relative whom you would like to provide for without disqualifying him or her from Medicaid or other government assistance? Do you want to reduce estate and gift taxes? Do you want to distribute assets to heirs efficiently without the cost (5% to 7% of your estate), delay and publicity of probate court? Do you want to protect your assets from creditors and lawsuits? All these objectives can be accomplished by creating a trust with the particular objective in mind.

Advanced Directives and Power of Attorney

Have you considered an advanced directive? An advanced directive is for you to determine what kind of medical and health care procedures you want in the case you are incapacitated or near death. It also allows you to appoint a health care representative who you want to make health care decisions for you according to your wishes. It is a very necessary document whether you want no life support or all possible life support. The appointed person, if any, is only authorized to make health care decisions. If you want someone to make financial and other decisions, you will need a power of attorney. A power of attorney can be limited by time, by extent of powers, by a determination of your present capacity, etc. Again, this is a very useful document especially in the case of incapacity. Your lawyer can guide you in constructing a power of attorney that is targeted to your needs.