A written instrument that specifies the beneficiaries who are intended to inherit the testator’s assets, names a personal representative to administer the estate, and sometimes gives instruction on how to set up a trust or dispose of remains.

A will is a formal expression of your wishes for the disposition of your assets, plans for your children, and the disposition of your remains following your demise. When drafted and executed properly, a will not only allows you to designate who receives the property you own upon your death, but also how that property is to be received. Property can be received directly, or it can be kept in trust for the benefit of your heirs, permitting you to retain some control over the property beyond your lifetime. A will can also determine who administers your probate estate and who manages any trust established in your will.

Without a will, the laws of intestacy dictate the distribution of your assets. That means that the state, not you, determines the distribution of your property. The law has been written to give general guidelines that apply to most people, but it doesn't reflect an individual's unique familial situation or preferences. When that happens, failure to create a valid will results in property going to unintended individuals. Even if you don't have unusual wealth or circumstances, it is important to develop an estate plan which specifies your wishes clearly. A will is perhaps the most common estate planning tool used to codify these wishes. A will is subject to probate, unlike certain trusts that can also be used to dispose of your assets upon death.

A will allows you to decide who will manage your money and direct the care of minor and disabled children. The will allows you to avoid many disputes. Upon marriage in Oregon, whatever preexisting will you may have had generally becomes void. You can make changes to your will when needed, and may be able to do so by a simple codicil.

In Oregon, a domestic partnership registry grants same-sex couples (domestic partners or a partner wife or husband) who file a Declaration of Domestic Partnership some limited rights. The rights granted primarily include the right to be treated as any other spouse would be for Oregon Inheritance Tax purposes, the right to make decisions for the disposition of remains, and the right to make surrogate medical decisions. For same-sex couples, it remains extremely important to have a proper estate plan, because the rights granted by Oregon are not applicable outside of the state, including the assessment of federal estate tax.

At Stahancyk, Kent & Hook, P.C., we will counsel you in how to protect your assets to ensure that your beneficiaries receive distributions as you intended and give you peace of mind that your wishes will be carried out during your lifetime and beyond. Click here for new client information.

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