What is Estate Planning?
Estate Planning means more than simply preparing a last Will and Testament. In its broad sense, the term “estate planning” entails more than providing for the disposition of your assets upon your death with a minimum amount of taxation.
Comprehensive estate planning, of course, provides for that. However, such planning must also provide for the administration and protection of assets during your lifetime and for decision-making in the event of a disabling illness.
For a complete estate plan, along with the last Will and Testament, a person needs a durable health care power of attorney, which names an agent responsible for medical decision making, and a durable financial power of attorney, which names an agent responsible for asset management, bill paying and other financial activities – and that’s where our Estate Planning attorneys in Portland can help.
What happens if I die without a will?
Each state has laws that determine the beneficiaries of a resident of the state who dies without a will. These are known as the laws of “intestate succession.” However, many individuals who die without wills are not subject to such laws if they have set up their estates so they pass by right of survivorship or by beneficiary designations, as previously discussed.
In Oregon, if you die without a will, trust, or other means of transferring ownership, your estate will be passed along according to specific rules. (In the following examples, “children” includes adopted as well as biological children.)
- If you are survived by your spouse and you have no children, 100% goes to your spouse.
- If you are survived by your spouse and you have children only with your surviving spouse, 100% goes to your spouse.
- If you are survived by your spouse and his or her children, 100% goes to your spouse. If you are survived by your spouse and by your children, but those children are not the children of your spouse, 50% goes to your spouse and 50% to your children.
- If you are survived by your children, but no spouse, 100% goes to your children.
- If you have no spouse or children, 100% goes to your to parents.
- If you have no spouse, children, or parents, your estate goes to your brothers and sisters in equal shares. Children of a deceased brother or sister take a deceased brother or sister’s share in equal amounts.
- If you have no spouse, children, parents, brothers or sisters, nieces or nephews, your estate goes to your grandparents. Children and grandchildren of a deceased grandparent take a deceased grandparent’s share.
- If you are survived by none of the above, your estate “escheats to the state,” which means your estate becomes the property of the state of Oregon.
While the laws of intestate succession determine the beneficiaries, the process of distribution is more complicated than if there were a will, trust, or other method of transferring ownership, and a probate is always required.
A complete estate plan should also contain a living will or other advance directive giving instructions concerning the type of care one wishes to receive (or avoid) in the event of terminal illness. In some cases, a revocable living trust may be appropriate as well.
Contact us for more information.
“Shannon made the effort to help me get my brother set up with a power of attorney. Very Professional.”
— Melinda S.