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Review of Oregon Estate Planning

Estate planning in Oregon involves the management and distribution of your real and personal property upon your death or if you should become mentally incapacitated.

Making a Will

A will is your written expression of how you wish your property to be distributed on your passing, which can be revoked or modified during your lifetime. If you die intestate, or without a will, the state of Oregon will appoint an administrator and distribute your assets according to the state’s succession laws that may not be as you intended and which may invite family disputes.

A will should include the following:

  • Property distribution
  • Provisions for children
  • Executor to administer the estate
  • Funeral arrangements
  • Simple trusts

Avoiding Probate

Probate is the judicial process that determines your will’s validity, inventories your estate, and distributes the estate’s assets to your heirs once all taxes and debts are paid. Even with a will and other planning tools, probate may not be avoided completely, especially in large estates, but there are ways to dispose of assets during your lifetime to avoid probate, including:

Living trusts

A living trust is a revocable trust that holds nearly any kind of asset while allowing you, as trustee, to continue to control your assets. It becomes irrevocable on your death when it is managed by your appointed successor trustee.

Joint ownership

Putting real property or personal property assets into joint ownership with a right of survivorship allows the title of these assets to automatically pass to the surviving joint owner on your death.

Payable or transfer-on-death designations

A bank account may have a POD, or payable-on-death designation, as may stocks and bonds, which are called TOD or transfer-on-death designations. These designations transfer rights to the accounts per your wishes on your death. Real property deeds may also have transfer-on-death designations.

Irrevocable life insurance trusts

Transferring ownership of a life insurance policy to a trust will minimize the value of your estate, but you do lose control of it and cannot change the beneficiary.

Small estate exemptions

Oregon has a small estate exemption from formal probate. An affidavit must be filed after 30 days from the decedent’s death if no more than $75,000 of the estate’s value is personal property and no more than $200,000 is attributable to real property.

Financial Power of Attorney

You can delegate someone, known as an agent, to handle your affairs. A durable power of attorney means it takes effect immediately and continues in full force and effect if you become incapacitated. You can also limit your agent’s power, revoke it in writing at any time, and make it effective only upon a physician’s certification of your mental incapacity if it is a springing durable instrument.

Health Care and End-of-Life Decisions

  • A living will, also known as a health care directive, this sets forth your intentions regarding end-of-life health measures.
  • A power of attorney for health care appoints someone to make critical decisions about your health care when you are mentally incapable.

Forms for health care directives in Oregon are available online for a fee or may be obtained at hospitals or health care facilities. You can modify these directives by simply destroying the old one and creating a new one.

Additional Planning Considerations

Most people should have some of the above plans for distributing their estates, but there are other considerations:

  • Estate taxes: Only very large estates valued at $5.25 million for deaths in 2013 are subject to federal estate taxes. Oregon has an estate transfer tax on estates of over $1 million.
  • Life Insurance: Can provide a valuable financial cushion if your children, spouse or other dependents need support in the long term. If you have another source of benefits like a pension, group life insurance or large IRA, insurance may be an unneeded expense.
  • Qualified personal residence trust: An irrevocable trust allows you to transfer your home to your children resulting in a minimal taxable gift. You may continue to live in the home for a set period before it goes to your children without incurring additional estate or gift taxes.

Consult an Oregon Estate Planning Attorney

State and federal estate laws are always changing. Consulting with an Oregon estate planning attorney ensures your assets, personal wishes for medical care, and your financial affairs are managed according to your intentions.

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