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Will-based Planning

A complete estate plan includes the following:

  • A Will directing what happens to your worldly goods after you die and possibly creating ongoing trusts for your beneficiaries.
  • A Durable Power of Attorney to allow your agent to care for your finances during any period of incapacity;
  • A HIPAA Release to allow your loved ones to get information about your physical and medical condition during any period of incapacity;
  • An Advance Health Care Directive naming a medical decision-maker for you and outlining your preferences regarding end-of-life care;
  • An Advance Directive Addendum/Health Care Power of Attorney expanding the authority of your medical decision-maker to include, hospice or long-term care and disposition of remains; and
  • Potential Additions – Guardianship for minor children, Organ Donor Forms, Memorial Instructions, Tax Planning to reduce or eliminate Oregon estate tax, and Charitable Giving.
  • Secure online storage of your documents, and 24/7 access to your health care documents. Click here for a short video about the benefits of storing your documents online with Docubank.

Will-based Planning & The Simple Estate

In general, there are two ways to plan: Will-based or Trust-based. A Will-based plan requires fewer adjustments during your lifetime and doesn’t take effect until your death. A Will-based plan may be sufficient for individuals or couples with gross assets of less than $1 million dollars, including proceeds from life insurance policies, who have property in only one state, with simple family dynamics.

In Oregon, a “simple” estate is subject to the Small Estates Proceeding. To qualify, your home must have a fair market value (mortgage is NOT deducted) of less than $200,000 and the balance of your estate subject to probate (without beneficiary designations or survivorship titling) must be less than $75,000. If this describes you, a Will-based plan may suit your needs.


Without careful planning and coordination of beneficiary designations and titles, probate is usually still necessary in a Will-based plan. Probate is the court-supervised transfer of assets to your heirs and typically costs 3-5% of the total value of your estate. Life insurance is included for purposes of estate taxes and probate administration. A $1 million dollar estate could pay $30,000 to $50,000 in probate costs.

Federal and State Estate Tax

Although the federal estate tax doesn’t apply to amounts under $5.49 million (2017 rate), Oregon imposes an estate tax from 10% to 16% of every dollar over $1 million. An individual with a $2 million estate would pay $101,250.

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Trust-based Planning

A Trust-based plan may be the better option under the following circumstances:

You own real estate in more than one state.
A trust will avoid the cost, delay and public notices of a probate (court-supervised transfer of assets) in EACH state!
You own multiple properties and/or rental properties.
The combination of a trust, LLC and/or property insurance protects your personal assets and your family from the risk of a lawsuit over income-producing properties.
You own a business
or an interest in a business. Often a business is the largest asset in a person’s estate. Recent statistics show that over 80% of businesses fail when the owner dies. Planning can ensure your business continues, your family gets the value of your business interest and your employees continue to have a job.
You have beneficiaries who are minor children.
A trust lets you dictate the terms of their inheritance and name guardians. You decide what the funds will be used for and who will manage them on behalf of your children. We can include specific information about your values: do you want funds to incentivize continuing education, owning a business, home ownership? Do you want to encourage church attendance, travel, extended family connections, sports or creative endeavors? We can customize instructions to the people you name in your Trust-based plan.
You have an otherwise capable family member or friend who would benefit from the protection of inheriting in trust
(protection from divorce, lawsuits or creditors). A trust can specify that the inheritance is not a marital asset in case of divorce, and can protect it from being included in a lawsuit. Professionals who require liability insurance (medical professionals, people in hazardous occupations) particularly appreciate the protection they get from inheriting in trust.
Someone in your plan has a disability
or is otherwise incapable of managing his or her own assets. Inheriting money outright can disqualify a person with a disability from receiving public benefits they genuinely need. There are strict rules on the terms of a trust for a person with disabilities.
You have a blended family and minor children.
Biological parents have precedence as guardian (raising the child) and conservator (managing money for the child). Do you want your ex-spouse managing the money you leave to your son or daughter? If you want stepchildren to inherit you must explicitly provide for them.
You have a blended family and adult children.
A trust can provide that your share of your blended estate is used for your spouse during his or her lifetime, but then goes directly to your children from a prior marriage. You can plan to divide your estate equally between all the children (joint and non-joint) or you can carve out shares and provide a separate plan for each of you depending on how many kids you each have and how well your family has integrated.
You expect your spouse to remarry and you want to protect your children’s inheritance.
A trust can specify that your spouse will only receive income, or some small portion of the estate unless he or she executes a valid prenuptial agreement with the next spouse. If it’s held in a properly drafted trust, your portion of your joint assets will not be considered a marital asset during the next marriage.
You have a gross estate of more than $1 million.
Although the federal exemption is over $5 million, Oregon imposes estate tax on every dollar over $1 million in your estate.
Life insurance is included in figuring the total.
You can avoid or mitigate this tax through the use of a life insurance trust (ILIT), Crummey trust or credit shelter/marital bypass trust.
You’re in a same-sex relationship or each intend to own and manage assets separately.
A trust can outline the terms of your relationship – which items you share and which you intend to hold separately.
You want the details of your estate plan to remain private
after your death. Probate requires filing the contents of your Will and all the assets managed by your Personal Representative/Executor in court, and this information becomes public knowledge. Reporters, nosy neighbors and long-lost “heirs” can peruse and order a copy of your probate documents at any time. Worse, probate requires that notice to creditors gets published in the local newspaper and that heirs (even ones you may have specifically disinherited) get direct notification of the probate and an opportunity to object. A trust keeps all your planning private.
You’re concerned about incapacity
and having someone else manage your assets while you’re unable. A trust names the person you want to manage your assets during incapacity, avoiding the need for a court-supervised conservator. You can even specify either a single person you trust to have the “take the keys” conversation with you, or name a panel of people you trust.
You have a history of charitable giving or want to include charities in your plan
We can interpret the confusing array of charitable vehicles and help you decide (in concert with your CPA or financial advisor) which best suits your needs: a donor-advised fund, foundation, charitable remainder trust, charitable lead trust or other charitable bequest.
You have a valuable or high risk niche hobby or interest.
The IRS has special rules governing art valued at or near $50,000, the handling and transfer of some firearms is federally regulated (you or your heirs could be subject to a $250,000 fine and time in prison for not knowing and following these rules), and the Department of Agriculture and other state-specific laws govern whether and how you can provide for the ongoing support and care for pets or livestock. We’re prepared to guide you through the options to plan for your unique interests.

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Our Fees

We find that clients appreciate the freedom a flat fee structure gives us to communicate as much as needed to get the work done properly without worrying about traditional hourly billing. It also allows us to customize without incurring additional costs. A Will-based plan is $800-$1,500 for an individual and $1,000-$2,000 for a married couple. A Trust-based plan is $1,800-$3,500 for an individual and $3000-$4,500 for a married couple. If your plan includes asset protection, tax planning, specialized life insurance trusts or IRA trusts, your fees will be adjusted accordingly. You can read more about fees in our handout.