A critical component of any estate plan is a Will or a Trust. These documents can determine who receives your assets, designate who manages your estate, minimize estate taxes, and provide for management of a beneficiary’s inheritance by someone other than the beneficiary. In drafting these documents, it is important to plan for contingencies and to consider default rules that apply even when not stated in the document.
Typically not all of a person’s property will be controlled by the terms of a Will or a Trust. Therefore, a proper estate plan reviews beneficiary designations (including transfer-on-death designations) and forms of property ownership (e.g. property owned with survivorship). These are changed as necessary to implement the overall estate plan. This review is often left undone, creating family strife when one’s final wishes are not fully implemented.
A good estate plan also includes documents that allow others to make financial or health care decisions for you while you are alive but unable to do so. For financial decisions, many consider giving someone else a power of attorney. There is no statutory form for this powerful legal document that should be carefully considered because of the potential for its abuse. Depending on your situation, other options may be more appropriate. For health care decisions, an advance directive is an important estate planning document. However, it is sometimes not completed as one intends because of its confusing statutory language. Some people work with their doctor to complete a pink POLST form which contains doctor’s orders to limit life-saving treatment. A POLST is not always appropriate even when one has an advance directive.
Just like a contractor helps a client identify the load-bearing walls that should remain in a remodel, an estate planning attorney helps a client identify the options that will best support the client’s goals.
The O'Neill Law Firm, LLC 1400 SW Montgomery St, Portland, OR 97201 (503) 796-0900