Death is one of the few certainties in life. Even so, discussing estate planning and contemplating what you want to happen towards the end of your life and after you have passed away is uncomfortable and difficult to talk about for almost everyone. Estate planning is the process of setting forth specific instructions and requests with respect to your end-of-life care and the eventual distribution of your estate now to alleviate stress and confusion later on. It is done as much for the benefit of loved ones as it is for the individual creating the estate plan. Having clear instructions for your representatives to follow allows them to implement the decisions you have already made, and ensures they are not left wondering what you intended or having to make these decisions on your behalf when they are likely also feeling overwhelmed and emotional.
If you die without an estate plan in place, Oregon law will dictate how your assets will be distributed, but that is only one piece of the puzzle. Oregon law can leave unresolved questions for your family. At Posey Legal, P.C., we will help you with all aspects of your estate plan such that you will have everything you need to ensure your wishes are carried out, and that your directives are clear.
Estate Planning Tools
There are several different documents you may want to consider when creating an estate plan. These documents set forth your choices related to end-of-life care, incapacity, and the eventual distribution of your estate. Some examples of estate planning tools are:
- Last Will and Testament. A will is the oldest tool used in estate planning and in the most basic sense, your will sets forth exactly how you want your assets distributed, and who you would like to be responsible for overseeing the distribution. There are certain requirements for proper execution of a will, and these requirements vary state to state. After your death, your will is presented to the probate court by the person you have designated to be your executor (also called your “personal representative”), and the court makes certain your estate is distributed according to your will. This process in which the court oversees distribution of your estate is called Probate.
- Trusts. There are several different types of trusts used in estate planning, the most common being the revokable living trust. In a revokable living trust, your assets are transferred into the trust so that the trust owns your property, but you control what happens to it while you are alive, and you manage it as the trustee. The trust instrument will also name a successor trustee who will assume the duties of trustee upon your death, or sooner if you become incapacitated. The assets owned by the trust do not have to be transferred to the new trustee, rather the new trustee simply takes control of the trust to manage and distribute the trust estate in accordance with your wishes as set forth in the trust instrument. One of the most appealing aspects of the revokable living trust is that, if done correctly, it allows your assets to pass directly to your beneficiaries without having to go through the probate court. Trust planning can also allow you to transfer your assets in a way that minimizes the tax consequences to your beneficiaries, by avoiding or reducing certain estate and gift taxes.
- Durable Financial Power of Attorney. Execution of a Durable Financial Power of Attorney allows you to designate a trusted individual to have control of your assets when you are incapacitated or otherwise to manage them yourself. For example, if you are taking a trip out of the country, you may want to leave someone you trust in charge of or with access to your bank account. Using a durable financial power of attorney, you can confer this authority for a specific and limited duration, until you return from your trip. Alternatively, you can designate an indefinite power of attorney, allowing your representative to make financial decisions for you should you become incapacitated in the future. Powers of Attorney expire upon death of the grantor, so they are not a replacement for a Will or Trust.
- Health Care Power of Attorney and Advance Directive. Execution of a Health Care Power of Attorney allows you to designate a trusted person to make medical decisions on your behalf when you are unable to make them for yourself. An Advance Directive serves as written instructions to your family and medical providers of the decisions you have already made regarding your end-of-life care, ensuring that your loved ones will not have to make those decisions for you.
- Additional Tools. Depending on your specific needs, our estate plans may also include the nomination of guardians for minor children, and preferences on the disposition of your remains. Before concluding our services, we make sure that your documents have all been properly executed, that you have everything you need to transfer your assets, and—if applicable—that there are clear instructions for both yourself and the persons you have nominated to assume the responsibilities laid out in your estate plan.
Whatever your estate planning needs are, at Posey Legal, P.C., we can help. Contact us and make an appointment for a consultation.