Most potential clients that call our office start the conversation by stating “I need a will!” They are searching for peace of mind in knowing that upon their death their property transfer where they want and to who they want. Tillson Law P.C. is here to help you do just that. However, our job isn’t just to draft a document and see you on your way. Rather it’s to figure out why you need a will; get you to understand what a will is and what it does and doesn’t do; and have you execute your will correctly.
“My will avoids probate”
No. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Your will is a dormant document until you die and it is admitted to probate by a court. We will frequently meet with clients after a loved one has passed, review the deceased’s assets and determine that no probate is necessary. This occurs when someone passes away with assets that are jointly owned with another individual or have payable on death or transfer on death accounts.
For example, if your estate consists of IRAs with beneficiary designations, no probate is necessary. A husband and wife own their real property as joint owners, no probate is necessary upon the first spouse’s death. However, following the surviving spouse’s death, probate may be necessary to transfer that property to the beneficiaries designated in your will.
The will really has no power until admitted to probate by a court of competent jurisdiction. There is no requirement to probate a will; therefore, if you don’t have any probate assets your will is never used.
“But my will says…”
Estate planning doesn’t just mean drafting a will and sending you on your way. A great deal of time is spent finding out about your finances and assets. We do this for multiple reasons; to make sure that you are getting an estate planning package that adequately meets your needs and to make sure that your accounts with beneficiary designations reflect your estate planning intentions. Issues arise when your will says one thing but your beneficiary designations say something different.
Say you have a minor child. We draft your will to include a trust for minors so that your 10 year old son doesn’t inherit your estate until he turns a certain age, say 25. You have a life insurance policy for $1,000,000 that states the death beneficiary is your wife and the contingent beneficiary is your son. If you and your wife are tragically involved in an accident when your son is 18, then the beneficiary designation controls and he receives the $1,000,000 in life insurance proceeds at the age of 18, not the age stated in your will. This is not what you intended. Nor is it what we would recommend. Coordinating the beneficiary designations in your will and non-probate assets is a significant part of what we do as estate planners.
“I don’t understand what this says”
People are intimidated by legal documents. Even lawyers will readily admit that they often sign on the bottom line without reading the fine print; because they know the legalese in most contracts is nearly impossible to understand. This type of language shouldn’t be in your will. “Per stirpes”? What does that mean? Issue? Why can’t you just say children or descendants?
Wills can be confusing and difficult to understand. That’s why we try to spend as much time as possible working with our clients to create a comprehensive and readable document. We want people to understand their wills and other estate planning documents. We don’t rush people through the process and we make sure that they understand where their property will go and how it will get there.
Most of our estate planning is done on a flat fee basis for this reason. Our goal is for you to feel comfortable calling our office with questions, not worrying that every minute you talk to us is going to cost you more money. The flat fee ensures that you can spend as much time as necessary to understand your will and what happens after you die.
“I can do this all on my own”
We often hear from people who wonder why they need an attorney to draft their estate planning documents. Much like a doctor would probably not recommend performing your own surgery, it is usually not a good idea to prepare your own estate planning documents.
Our role at Tillson Law P.C. is not only to prepare the documents, but to ensure that they are prepared correctly. Often times when people bring in estate planning documents that a loved one drafted themselves, they are not valid. When that happens, the will their loved one prepared is essentially thrown out. The Oregon laws of intestate succession then apply. Frequently these laws do not reflect what the deceased person intended to do with their estate. For example, family members who they haven’t seen or spoken to in years may end up receiving a portion of their estate. To ensure that your estate is handled the way you want it to be, it is important to have your documents prepared and executed by someone who understands the law and how estate planning works. Give us a call today to discuss things further!