Every person who has money or owns property that will not be expended or disposed of during his or her lifetime has an estate. Estate planning is simply the process of deciding how such assets will be distributed now or after death. It includes taking steps to insure that decisions are carried out effectively and economically. These steps may involve titling assets, naming beneficiaries, and creating such documents as wills and trusts. In complex situations, more is involved.
Such estate planning can be intimidating, but it need not be. It does, however, involve time, energy, and determination. Some serious decisions need to be made.
Because estate planning involves people and causes that person cherishes, it may also be a deeply emotional process. For that reason, it is well worth the effort to acquire expert legal advice. Many people have taken the effort to plan for the disposition of their estate, but time and unforeseen circumstances befall us all, and the estate planning documents that may have been prepared some years ago may no longer be adequate for the current situation.
It is estimated that almost 70% of Americans do not have a will. It has been observed that families start and stop serious estate planning discussions up to seven times before completing the process. Another concern for many is planning for incapacity, which is also often overlooked, and yet there is a 65% chance that each one of us will experience some period of incapacity and a 25% chance of suffering a long-term period of incapacity. Preparation for incapacity is often done in conjunction with general estate planning. Various legal tools are available, including appointing a surrogate or substitute decision-maker to assist when incapacity comes. Thus, there are planning tools available for making healthcare decisions as well as for financial decisions.
As a final thought, it is an often-overlooked fact that if a person does not make out a will, then upon death the state makes one out for that person. One size does not necessarily fit all. An experienced and successful estate planner will have the necessary legal knowledge in order to put together the documents that will give a person peace of mind and be individually tailored to the needs of the client.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained herein is based on Oregon law and is subject to change. It should be used for general purposes only and should not be construed as specific legal advice by Warren Allen, LLP or its attorneys. Neither this website nor use of its information creates an attorney – client relationship. If you have specific legal questions, consult with your own attorney or call us for an appointment.