Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is a Will?

A will is a document by which a person regulates the rights of others over his property or family after death. It speaks at the moment of death, and it directs the probate court, telling the judge who should serve as your personal representative, whether or not that person must post a bond, and who should receive your assets, and how they should receive them, at the end of the probate process. It is like a roadmap for the probate judge to follow.


Q: What is a Trust?

A trust is a legal entity that can achieve a number of things. It serves as a will substitute, because it will direct who should receive your assets, and how they should receive them, after you die. It will own your assets during your lifetime, thereby avoiding the probate process after you die. Because it owns your assets, it also makes it easier to manage those assets should you ever become incapacitated, avoiding the court-directed conservatorship process. Trusts can be drafted to protect assets, provide management, and save gift and estate taxes.

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Q: Why do I need an Advance Directive?

The Advance Directive was drafted by the Oregon legislature in 1993 to enable Oregonians to have control over their own health care choices. You can name the persons you trust to make decisions for you, should you ever reach the stage where you cannot communicate with your physician. You can also state your own wishes when it comes to the question of taking away tube feeding or life support.

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Q: How long will the estate planning process take?

The length of the process always depends on the choices you make. Sometimes it is easy to come to a decision and to implement that choice. Other times, it may take some time to sleep on things, consider the design of your plan, and give your attorney the final approval so that the plan can be implemented. Once your decisions are made, documents can be drafted for review and signature; the time between final decision and review of documents is usually a month or less.

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Q: How much will it cost?

The cost depends upon you – your assets, your family, your choices.Generally speaking, it will cost less to plan with a will than to plan with a living trust – at least at the drafting stage of the process. (It is generally more expensive to administer an estate that is will-based at the time of transition – death or disability; it is usually simpler and thus less expensive to administer a trust-based estate at the time of transition.)

We will meet with you the first time at no cost to you. Once you have settled on a final design for your plan, we will let you know what that plan will cost, and you will be free to decide whether to go forward or not.

Recognizing that no fees can be estimated until your particular circumstances are understood, we can provide you a range of fees incurred for typical kinds of plans. Generally speaking, a will-based plan may range from $750 to $1,500. A trust-based plan is usually twice that cost or more. The more complex your plan, the higher you can expect the fees to be.

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Q: Why is estate planning important?

Estate planning is important because it allows you to control what will happen at the time you die or if you ever become incapacitated. Instead of letting the government dictate who is in charge and who receives what, estate planning lets you decide how you want things handled for the benefit of the ones you love. It lets you control costs and timing, and it lets you decide how much to pay in the way of death taxes.

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Q: How can I incorporate charitable giving into my plan?

Continuing to support the charities that are important to you can be a very simple piece of any estate plan. For instance, you can simply direct a gift, by way of dollar amount or percentage, to your favorite charities. An effective way to include charity is to name the charity as a beneficiary (for all or for a percentage) of any retirement account. As we all know, other than Roth IRAs, traditional retirement accounts are subject to income tax at the time the money is withdrawn from the account; if money is directed to charity – instead of a person – the charity does not pay that income tax! Distributions from a retirement account directly to charity means that the charity gets the benefit of 100 cents on every dollar; distributions to people mean that the IRS takes some part of every dollar.

Other charitable planning tools can become more complex, sharing a gift between charities and people. Ask about charitable remainder trusts, charitable lead trusts, gift annuities, or other tools.

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