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Estate Planning and Probate FAQs

Understanding the legal concepts and terminology associated with estate planning and probate can be daunting. At Johnson and Taylor, we believe that knowledge is power. That’s why our estate planning and probate lawyers have created this list of frequently asked questions so our clients can make practical, informed decisions that protect their interests.

What is Estate Planning?

Estate planning is a process in which someone makes arrangements for the distribution of their assets after their death. A comprehensive estate plan also includes legal documents such as power of attorney to protect your interests and specify your wishes for healthcare and financial decisions should you become incapacitated.

What is Included in an Estate Plan?

A comprehensive estate plan may include a will, trusts, power of attorney for finances, power of attorney for healthcare, and an advance directive.

Why Do I Need a Will?

Although you’re not required to have a will in Oregon, drafting one can ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes. A last will and testament also enables you to name guardians for minor children and pets. Without a will, the distribution of your assets is determined by the probate court, according to the laws of intestacy in Oregon. Having a will in place at the time of your death can save your loved ones a lot of heartache, time, and money.

What is a Living Trust?

A living trust is a revocable trust that holds cash and assets. It allows you to create the trust and manage your own assets while you’re alive. You may name a trustee to manage and distribute the assets to beneficiaries upon your death.

Trusts are valuable estate planning tools, as the assets in them usually don’t have to pass through probate. There are different types of trusts, and each serves its own purpose. It’s vital to seek the assistance of an experienced trust and estate attorney in Oregon to determine which type of trust will best fit your needs. For example, if you have a disabled loved one you’d like to provide for after your death, a special needs trust may be appropriate.

What is Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney enables you to name an agent who has the authority to make healthcare or financial decisions on your behalf. Both power of attorney for healthcare and power of attorney for finances are vital to protecting your rights and interests should you become incapacitated. In addition to powers of attorney, you should create an advance directive, which lets you outline your wishes for medical and end-of-life care.

How Can I Reduce Oregon Estate Taxes?

In Oregon, the first $1 million in cash and assets are not subject to estate tax. If your estate is worth more, the remaining amount of the estate will be taxed. Our experienced estate planning lawyers are well-versed in strategies that may help reduce the amount of estate taxes your beneficiaries will have to pay. Creating certain types of trusts, charitable donations, and gifting are all potential ways to reduce estate tax liability.

Why is Estate Planning Important?

Proper estate planning can ensure your wishes are carried out as you intended, safeguard your rights and your family’s interests, and give you peace of mind. It can also make an exceedingly difficult time easier for your loved ones and allow them to focus on grieving, supporting one another, and healing.

When Should I Update My Estate Plan?

It’s critical to review and update your estate plan regularly. It’s especially important when major life events like marriage, the birth of a child or grandchild, divorce, or significant changes in your financial situation occur.

What is Probate?

Probate is the legal process for validating a deceased person’s will, distributing their assets, and settling their estate.

How Does Probate Work in Oregon?

If there is a will, the executor or personal representative of the estate must file a petition with the probate court to register the will. If there is no will, the probate court will appoint a personal representative and assets will be distributed according to Oregon laws of intestate succession.

Heirs, other beneficiaries, and creditors are then given notice. The personal representative is also responsible for protecting and managing the assets of the estate, paying debts, filing and paying taxes, distributing assets, and preparing a final accounting report, which is submitted to the court. If you’re the personal representative of an estate who’s overwhelmed by the probate process, our estate administration attorneys can take some of the weight off your shoulders.

What Property Does Not Have to Go Through Probate in Oregon?

Typically, property that is solely owned by the deceased person must go through probate unless it is in a trust. Joint-tenancy property, life insurance, and retirement accounts with named beneficiaries, joint bank accounts, and pay- or transfer-on-death accounts can avoid probate and pass directly to named beneficiaries. Our Oregon probate lawyers can determine and advise you on which assets need to be probated.

How Long Does Probate Take in Oregon?

Probate can take anywhere from four months to more than a year. The length of time probate takes depends on the complexity of the estate, potential challenges to the will or estate litigation, and other factors specific to the circumstances. Having an experienced probate attorney assist and guide you through the process can help keep things moving.

Why Should I Choose the Estate Planning Attorneys at Johnson and Taylor?

We know that the circumstances surrounding the death of a loved one can be complicated and emotionally and financially taxing. Our estate planning lawyers and probate attorneys are seasoned professionals dedicated to serving clients in Oregon with respect and compassion. We understand the nuances of Oregon estate planning and probate laws. We help you create a solid estate plan that adheres to the law and protects your family’s interests. If any issues arise during the settlement of an estate, you can count on our estate litigation attorneys to help you sort them out.

Our experienced legal team possesses a diverse range of knowledge and experience. In addition to estate planning and probate, we handle cases involving divorce, family law matters, personal injury, and car accident claims. Our family law attorneys and estate planning and probate lawyers serve clients in Marion, Polk, and Linn County and other surrounding communities. Members of our team are fluent in Spanish.

Contact Our Probate and Estate Planning Attorneys in Salem, Oregon

At Johnson and Taylor, we care about our clients. Whether you need a comprehensive estate plan, a will, or assistance with probate, we can help. To schedule a consultation with an estate planning or probate lawyer in Oregon, call our office at 503-990-6641 or contact us online.