Estate Planning

Even if you don’t consider yourself to be rich, you still have an estate. An “estate” refers to everything that a person owns. Even if you do not have a large country property with a big house, you still have an estate as long as you own something.

The process of estate planning can be stressful, daunting, and very confusing. My plan will be to try eliminate the unknown and reduce or alleviate the uneasiness that comes with planning your estate. I can provide comprehensive estate planning solutions, with a straight-forward explanation of the options available to you – to help inform your decision making, and efficiently design the right plan for you.

Estate Planning involves proactively planning for and ensuring that your wishes are in place so that they can be carried out smoothly when the time comes. Without a clear and detailed estate plan, your family members might risk spending time and money in court to settle the allocation of assets. By establishing a comprehensive estate plan, confusion over asset allocation can be eliminated, guardianship for children is unquestionable, and taxes and court fees are minimized.

So what does one need for an Estate Plan?

1. Last Will and Testament

Through your Will it’s possible to provide detailed instructions for disposition of personal and real property upon death. In addition to creating clear instructions, the Will establishes clear guidance on selecting the Personal Representative, waiving the bond requirement, establishing compensation for the Personal Representative, and including specific guidelines for disposition of remains.

2. Durable Power of Attorney

Second, it’s good to have a Durable Power of Attorney. A power of attorney makes it possible to appoint an agent to act on your behalf for financial purposes. The agent can then handle banking, pay bills, deal with contracts, buy and sell a property, and more. With power of attorney, clients have the option of providing an agent with immediate control, or creating a document to specify that the power becomes effective upon incapacity.

3. Living Will or Advance Directive for Healthcare

Third, an Advance Directive or Living Will can be invaluable. In Oregon, the advance directive is a statutory document that combines the traditional living will, and the healthcare power of attorney. The living will portion of an estate plan allows you to give directions with regard to medical care in the event of incapacity, while the healthcare power of attorney names an agent who can make healthcare decisions on your behalf. Without the advance directive document, those caring for an incapacitated person are forced to seek appointment as a guardian in order to make healthcare decisions. Guardianship is a separate probate court proceeding, which can be expensive and time-consuming.

Revocable Living Trust

In addition, sometimes a Revocable Living Trust is helpful. Trusts are incredibly powerful estate planning tools. A revocable living trust ensures full control over property as though it is your own, and upon incapacity or death, controls transfers to the successor trustee – allowing for seamless transition of power over your property.

The primary benefit of creating a trust is that the ownership exists within the trust rather than the individual. As a result, the need for probate is eliminated, due to ownership of the substantial assets being associated with the trust rather than a single person. The successor trustee has the ability to manage the assets and distribute them, free of any formal court proceeding.

With a properly drafted trust, property can be transferred within a month or two, at a significantly lower cost due to the elimination of probate. Additionally, through more complex trust provisions, tax exposure can be better managed and minimized.

A living trust is different from a trust that is created by a will (called a “testamentary” trust). A living trust is an agreement made during the lifetime of the “settlor,” the person creating the trust.

In creating the trust, the settlor is making an agreement with a trustee who will be responsible for managing the trust. In many circumstances, the trustee and the settlor are the same person. In other trusts, the trustee is a trusted relative, friend, professional, or institution. The settlor then transfers property to the trust such as real estate, personal property, boats, cars, investment accounts, etc. That property then becomes the responsibility of the trustee, who has a legal duty to prudently manage it for the maximum benefit of the individuals or entities identified in the trust as beneficiaries.

Living trusts come in two basic types: irrevocable trusts and revocable trusts. An irrevocable trust is just what it sounds like. You can’t take it back. An irrevocable trust offers certain protections from estate taxes and can shelter assets from expenses such as long-term care costs. They are complicated and require careful planning.

A revocable trust, on the other hand, is not permanent, although it becomes so upon the settlor’s incapacity or death. Revocable trusts provide a number of benefits such as lifetime management of assets, avoidance of probate expenses upon death, potential for estate tax savings, and planning for disabled or minor children.

So, how much does this cost?

My pricing model for estate planning is to ensure my clients know what to expect from the start. I normally charge a flat fee to make sure legal fees do not fluctuate throughout the course of the work, which eliminates surprises in billing and fees upon project completion.

The basic estate plan for individuals’ and a couple’s estate includes a will, power of attorney, and advance directive. Our basic estate plans start at $750 for an individual, and $1,200 for a joint plan. Throughout the consultation and evaluation phase, I may determine that your estate plan should include a trust.

If a trust is pursued as a part of your estate plan, additional fees will range from $300 to $1,550 dependent upon the complexity, and whether the plan is individual or joint. Additional services, such as amending an existing trust, preparing deeds for multiple properties, or amending business documents to conform to your new estate plan, are billed on an hourly basis.

Please give me a call to get a fee estimate on your estate plan.