Each individual has different estate planning needs based on family circumstances and specific wishes for who should inherit that individual's assets. Having a plan in place can provide you with piece of mind and can provide valuable guidance for your family and friends after you pass away. In addition, by making your intentions clear in estate planning and health care decision making documents, you can help lessen the stress and conflict that may arise in families where a loved one passes away or becomes incapacitated without previously signing valid legal documents outlining that individual's wishes.
While it is important for most individuals to have a complete estate plan in place, it is especially important for unmarried individuals in committed relationships to have a comprehensive estate plan. Without a valid will or trust in place, many of an individual's assets will pass to family members. If it is the intent of an unmarried individual to have assets or property pass to his or her partner, it is important to have a valid will and/or a trust in place to make sure that the individual's partner receives those assets.
A will allows you to decide who will receive your assets and to appoint a personal representative to assist in distributing your assets and paying your debts after you die. In a will, you can also make known who you wish to care for your minor or disabled children at the time of your death and who should take care of property inherited by any children under the age of 18 at the time of your death. Although you can list the name of who you would like to care for your minor or disabled children, you should know that a court is not required to follow your wishes regarding who should be appointed to care for your children if you die. By speaking with an estate planning attorney, you can receive advice on issues that may arise with relation to appointment of a caretaker for your children if you should die, and the importance of specifying at least one potential alternate caretaker for your children in your estate planning documents.
When a person dies without a will, current state law determines who will receive the deceased person's assets. Under current Oregon law, if you do not have a will and are married and have children from a prior relationship, a portion of your assets will be inherited by your children from the prior relationship. You must prepare a will if you have children from a prior relationship and you want your current spouse to inherit all or a majority of your assets when you die.
A will can be revoked or modified at any time prior to your death, so long as you are legally competent to make the change. You should review your will and other estate planning documents when important events occur. You may want to revise your will after a marriage, divorce, receipt of a large gift or inheritance, the birth or adoption of a child, or the death of a close family member or friend.
A trust is a legal document that may be created as part of a will, or as a separate legal document. A trust appoints a trustee to manage your property and gives the trustee instruction on distributing your property after you die. A trust can be created during your life, and it may be effective either upon your death or while you are still living. If you create a trust, you must transfer property to the trust. An attorney can help you create a trust and advise you on how to transfer different types of property into the trust. Usually, individuals who have a trust are still advised to have a will, to deal with any property that is not included in a trust at the time of death.
You should also consider having a financial power of attorney and/or a medical advance directive. A financial power of attorney and a medical advance directive can be used when you are still living and can help a designated close friend or family member care for you and use your funds to pay for your expenses if you are injured or incapacitated. Both a financial power of attorney and a medical advance directive can be modified or revoked at any time.
Contact an Estate Planning Attorney
For more information or to schedule an appointment with an experienced lawyer regarding estate planning in Oregon, please contact us online or call (503) 641-7990 at our Portland law office. By consulting with an estate planning attorney and sharing detailed information about your specific situation, you can make sure that your estate plan is specifically tailored to your special needs and concerns. The attorneys at Jensen & Leiberan will guide your through the process of gathering relevant information for your estate plan, will work with you to craft an estate plan specifically tailored to your needs.