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Estate Planning Checklist
If you answer false to any of the following statements, you need to consult an attorney about updating your estate plan.
- T/F I have a will that fully expresses my wishes.
- T/F I have not had any children or grandchildren born since my will was signed.
- T/F I have not married or divorced since my will was signed.
- T/F I have not been widowed since my will was signed.
- T/F I understand how all real estate I own is titled.
- T/F I know who will be appointed as executor of my estate.
- T/F I have provided for the transfer of retirement plan benefits that may remain after my lifetime, including IRAs, 401k Plans, etc.
- T/F I have no concerns about possible costs and delays in transferring property to my spouse or others after my death.
- T/F If I have a revocable living trust, I have transferred all assets into it, and I have a will to deal with the remainder of my assets.
Estate Planning Fees
|Fees||Single Person||Married Couple|
|Will w/Simple Trust||$300||$400|
|Power of Attorney||$75||$125|
The Importance of Having a Will
There is a great deal of misinformation and myth about estate planning and wills circulating among Oregonians. I hope the following questions and answers will clear up some of the confusion.
What happens if I do not have a will at my death?
If you own any property in your name alone, your assets must go through the probate process regardless of whether or not you have a will. Without a will, your property will be distributed to various relatives according to Oregon Statutes, not according to your wishes. Also, a will can reduce the cost of probate.
Can a will be changed?
You can change your Will as often as you want, so long as you are of “sound mind.” The “sound mind” standard is very easy to meet. You may want to change your will for many reasons, such as a marriage, a divorce, the birth of children or grandchildren, or a significant change in your assets. Everyone should review their estate plan every five years to determine if it meets his or her current needs and objectives. This review may or may not require changes to your will.
Who will manage my estate after my death?
Having a will allows you to decide who will be the executor (called “Personal Representative” in the Oregon Statutes) of your estate. You may choose a friend, a relative, or a professional, such as an attorney or a CPA. If you think there may be hard feelings in your family and/or your estate is very large or complex, you may want to name a professional; otherwise, a trusted relative or friend can handle the executor’s duties with the help of a probate attorney.
What are the advantages of having a will?
A will allows you to decide how your assets will be distributed or managed after you die. Also, it lets your wishes be heard regarding the care of minor children (appointment of guardians). It often prevents disputes among heirs and relatives. The probate process settles all the deceased’s debts, and transfers property debt-free, except for secured debts, to your heirs. A trust can be set up after your death to provide for the financial needs of your children, spendthrift relatives, and disabled loved ones by including trust provisions in your will.
What are the disadvantages of having a will?
None. Remember, a will is not “activated” until your death. Up to that point, you may change it as often as your circumstances and wishes change. Fortunately, the cost of having your will drafted and updated is quite reasonable if you choose the right attorney.
Are there certain people who need wills more than others?
Yes: 1) married couples who have children from previous marriages; and 2) single adults without children or grandchildren. It is especially important for these individuals to carefully craft an estate plan so that each loved one is treated as the individual wishes that person to be treated when his or her assets are distributed. If these individuals, regardless of age, discuss estate planning with an experienced attorney, he or she can avoid disputes among loved ones, keep probate costs to a minimum, and prevent the “wrong” person from receiving assets.
Is it possible for a deceased person to own assets that are not in his name?
Yes. Two situations come to mind immediately: 1) If your death is caused by the negligence of others, your estate may be entitled to receive a judgment against the wrong-doer and/or insurance funds; and 2) just prior to your death (perhaps without your knowledge), someone else passed away leaving assets to you. I dealt with a mother in her 70s and a daughter in her 40s who passed away within a few weeks of each other. The daughter owned only joint assets, until her mother passed away leaving her half of a large estate. Since the daughter had a will, her wishes prevailed and a dispute among relatives was avoided.