Michael McCord and Brian Hemphill have a combined 50 years of experience as estate planning attorneys to help you arrange for long term care, and how the next generation should best receive your assets. We can help you make plans to manage inheritance taxes, estate administration, setting up a power of attorney, elder care, medicaid eligibility, creating a Will, trusts, and otherwise coordinate a smooth transition for your family. As Will and Trust attorneys we have experience understanding the particularities of every client’s needs.
Estate Planning Guide
McCord & Hemphill can facilitate the preparation of everything you require to get through the process with minimal fuss and simplify matters for when it counts most. Below is an overview of the steps we can assist with.
Choose a lawyer you get along with
This is an often overlooked part of the process. Estate planning is personal in nature and it makes a difference to opt for an estate law attorney you get along with. When meeting them for the first time pay attention to how comfortable you feel asking important questions. It’s perfectly reasonable to look for someone you have good professional chemistry with. Ask them about their fee structure and compare with others. Make sure they’re willing to talk to you personally over the phone. Attorney time is valuable but a short conversation before a consultation is good form and shows interest.
Creating a Will
Also known as a self-proving Will, or a testamentary Will, a Will is a legal document that sets forth your wishes for distribution of your property and provides instructions for guardianship of minor children . A Will memorializes your wishes. A Will includes naming an estate executor, naming guardians for minor children, deciding how debts and taxes will be paid, and providing for pets. Wills are somewhat basic, however. If you’d prefer to put conditions on gifts such as not turning over assets all at once, or ‘Kyle gets the apartment if he finishes college’, among many others, a trust may be a better choice.
After your death, probate proceeding might be necessary to wrap up your affairs. If probate is required, then your Will acts as the guidebook to probate by expressing your wishes. This process usually takes 6 – 12 months.
Consider a trust
People make trusts for different reasons. For example, a revocable living trust can be created to avoid potentially lengthy and costly probate proceedings. Parents of young children may include a “just in case” trust in their wills so that if the parents pass away when their children are still young the children’s inheritance will be placed in a trust until the children are old enough to manage their affairs appropriately. Spouses with children and large estates may create trusts for each other in order to minimize the estate tax paid to the government before their children receive their inheritance. There are many reasons a trust may be preferable to a will. Click the following for more information on trusts.
Creating a financial power of attorney
A durable power of attorney can give a trusted person authority to handle your finances and property. This will allow your family to avoid undesirable, time-consuming, and potentially-costly guardianship proceedings. Appointing an agent in the event you are temporarily or permanently incapacitated makes life much easier for your family. Even if you are married your spouse has limited capacity to manage your affairs unless they are appointed agent.
Example: In Bend, Oregon, Jim and Elisa have been married for 35 years and they own a home and two investment properties. The investment properties are in Elisa’s name only. Elisa becomes temporarily incapacitated. Her doctors believe with proper procedures she will be restored, but the treatments are expensive and not covered by their insurance. In this scenario, although Jim has a cash offer for one of the investment properties he does not have the authority to sell one to cover the procedures. Having a durable power of attorney would have solved these issues and many others.
Creating health care directives
If you lose the capacity to make health care decisions for yourself your health care documents immediately go into effect. In the absence of clear directions from you, medical personnel may be legally required to undertake some fairly extreme measures that many people would prefer to avoid. An Advance Directive for Health Care sets out instructions for life support and medical care in the event you become incapacitated. In the past, an Advance Directive was called a living will.
Appointing the right person as your health care representative
It’s important to select the right person as your health care representative in your Advance Directive. You should appoint someone who understands and will support your wishes. This generally includes selecting a single person to make decisions for you, as opposed to siblings or multiple family members. End-of-life is a trying time and will be a great challenge on its own. Establishing an understanding between family, caretakers, or care providers will dispel confusion and help avoid disputes from arising. A smooth transition can be prepared for with good communication.
Planning your long term elder care
Planning for wellness in the elder years can start with making living arrangements and planning for long term care. This may include in-home care, moving closer to family, assisted living, or other arrangement. Long term care represents a range of services you may need to meet your care needs in everyday life. This can include housework, taking medication, cleaning up after meals, caring for pets, managing money, and shopping, but may also include bathing, dressing, and more. There are many terms associated with facilities such as a rest home, assisted living facility, and retirement home which all offer different types of care. We can help out clients and family make decisions in anticipation for transition into well devised care arrangements.
Protecting your children and their property
If you do not live long enough to raise your children, you should have a plan for their future. You should name an adult to serve as guardian for the children and to manage inherited assets for your children. Although this can be the same person as the guardian you name in your will, you may consider another a better choice and name them instead.
Planning beneficiary designations
Bank accounts and retirement plans with named beneficiaries can be made automatically “payable on death” to your beneficiary and allow the funds to skip the probate process. In Oregon you can register your bonds, stocks, and brokerage accounts to transfer automatically to your beneficiary upon your death.
Understanding estate taxes
Oregon imposes an estate tax on assets in Oregon when the owner dies. Anyone with assets of more than $1 million would be wise to seek help with estate tax planning to minimize taxes and increase the amounts they can leave to their heirs.
Finalizing arrangements and expenses
Letting your family and survivors know your wishes for final arrangements can simplify the process at a trying time. You can write a letter expressing this to your executor and keep all your records together in one place. Your will is not considered a good place to express your burial preferences. You can take care of expenses by creating an account with your bank which is payable on death to cover funeral expenses. This is largely preferable to pre-paid funeral services which are less reliable. Taking care of this in advance is also a good way to control funeral costs and spare your loved ones the need to focus on spending money at a sensitive time.
Having a plan for your business
Leaving a business behind without making arrangements can create a lot of confusion which can result in disputes. A sole proprietorship should have a succession plan which includes choosing a successor, developing a training plan for your successor, establishing a timetable, retirement, and putting your successor in place. If you are in a partnership you can create a buyout agreement (or buy-sell) which designates whether a departing partner must be bought out, what price will be paid for interests in the partnership, who can buy shares, and what events trigger a buyout.
Keeping your documents together!
Your attorney, attorney-in-fact, or executor may need the following documents or information: will, trusts, insurance policies, real estate deeds, powers of attorney, vehicle titles, certificates for stocks, bank accounts, mutual funds, safe deposit boxes, IRAs, retirement plans, 401(k) accounts, credit cards, utilities, mortgages, loans, unpaid taxes, funeral arrangement letter to the executor, other debts owed, investment records, marriage certificates, memberships, subscriptions, patents, tax records, and veterinary records.
Storing your account and internet passwords!
Internet passwords are often forgotten and retrieving them can be difficult. Writing them down and keeping them together is one way to keep them accessible for your estate executor, but you can also use a service like LastPass which allows you to collect and securely store your passwords.
Where do we start?
Get in touch with us and we can ask you the right questions and make recommendations.
What is the best way to avoid taxation in estate planning?
Reducing estate taxes and passing on the most wealth to your children and family depends on your specific situation. In general, you must have assets of more than $1 million for estate taxes to be relevant; however, that $1 million threshold includes many assets that people forget, such as life insurance benefits. We encourage you to get in touch with us for details.
How long does estate planning take?
Your estate plan can be prepared in as little as one week depending on a variety of factors such as your legal needs, your schedule, whether you have provided us with all the information we require, and whether you desire a follow-up appointment to address further questions.
How much does estate planning cost?
A full estate plan typically ranges from $300 to $600 for a basic estate plan, to $2000 to $3000 for an estate plan using a revocable living trust, or more for estate plans set up to minimize estate taxes. The costs depend largely on the complexity of the plan, size of the estate, and ultimately how long it takes to prepare.
Who should draft a Will?
A Will is an important legal document that can have a significant impact on your family. Although it is possible to prepare a Will yourself, an estate planning lawyer can give you good advice on how the Will should be prepared and ensure all the legal requirements are met.
What makes a good estate planning lawyer?
The following are a few guidelines you can follow when selecting an estate planning lawyer. Most importantly a good estate planning lawyer will ask many questions before making recommendations. Any estate law attorney that quickly tries to sell you a “one size fits all” trust, solution, or plan without taking individual objectives, the particularities of your situation, and your relationships into consideration is usually not a good choice. A good lawyer listens and responds, and this is something you can judge for yourself with an initial meeting with them. Don’t ever be embarrassed to ask questions about credentials, experience, education, or certifications. Also be wary of being attracted by a prominent attorney at a firm only to be handed off to a lawyer with much less experience.
In what ways can I plan for difficult beneficiaries?
Sometimes our clients have “difficult beneficiaries” such as children who engage in self destructive behavior such as drug or alcohol abuse, children who are unable to control their spending, or perhaps children in marriages parents don’t have much faith in and want to purposefully make restrictions for. Many conditions can influence how beneficiaries inherit wealth. The idea is to get creative and plan an inheritance in a way that best supports the beneficiary.
Oregon State Bar: Estate Planning for Difficult Beneficiaries
Feel free to reach out to us with questions.