Modern Family Matters

Creating the Right Plan for You: Demystifying Estate Planning Documents

September 10, 2020 with Triston Dallas Season 1 Episode 13
Modern Family Matters
Creating the Right Plan for You: Demystifying Estate Planning Documents
Chapters
Modern Family Matters
Creating the Right Plan for You: Demystifying Estate Planning Documents
Sep 10, 2020 Season 1 Episode 13
with Triston Dallas

Show Notes:
Landerholm Family Law’s Associate Attorney, Triston Dallas, breaks down the most common components of an estate plan.

An estate plan is an amalgamation of documents that are put together by an attorney on behalf of a client to explain how you would like your estate to be managed upon your death or incapacitation. Included in those documents are things such as a will, a trust, a power of attorney, an advanced directive, a letter of intent, or a disposition of remains. 

It's important to make sure that your will, your trust, your insurances, and other aspects of your estate plan coincide and are in line with everything else in your life. For example, if you have life insurance, retirement, a home, a vacation home, etc,  you need to make sure that your documents, and the ownership or the rights into those properties of those assets, are in line with what and how you wrote your estate plan.

When you die with a will, it will go through probate, which is the process of the court administering your will, making sure all of your assets are together and accounted for, and then dispersing those assets according to your wishes.

There are two main types of trusts: a revocable living trust, and an irrevocable trust. The biggest differences are that a revocable living trust can be changed anytime, whereas an irrevocable trust cannot be changed without a court order. This is because the assets that are in an irrevocable trust are no longer considered your assets or part of your estate—they belong to the trust, therefor you do not have the right of ownership to act on those assets without permission from the court. Irrevocable living trusts, while offering less flexibility to make changes, allow people to disclaim an asset from their estate, which can have tax benefits, or protect that asset from creditors.

A power of attorney grants another individual the ability to act as if they were you, in the event that you became incapacitated, or when you feel is necessary. This person can then act on your behalf to manage pay your bills, your debts, manage all your assets and make sure that your day to day life doesn't stop because you're not able to take action.

An advanced directive is similar to a power of attorney, but applies solely to healthcare decisions. Whereas a power of attorney makes choices for your financial endeavors, an advanced directive would make decisions such as when to take you off life support, etc.

If you would like to speak with one of our family law attorneys regarding your unique family law matter, call our office at (503) 227-0200 to schedule a free consultation, or visit our website at https://www.landerholmlaw.com/

 

Disclaimer: Nothing in this communication is intended to provide legal advice nor does it constitute a client-attorney relationship, therefore you should not interpret the contents as such. If you require legal assistance, you can call our office to set up a consultation with one of our seasoned family law attorneys.

Show Notes Transcript

Show Notes:
Landerholm Family Law’s Associate Attorney, Triston Dallas, breaks down the most common components of an estate plan.

An estate plan is an amalgamation of documents that are put together by an attorney on behalf of a client to explain how you would like your estate to be managed upon your death or incapacitation. Included in those documents are things such as a will, a trust, a power of attorney, an advanced directive, a letter of intent, or a disposition of remains. 

It's important to make sure that your will, your trust, your insurances, and other aspects of your estate plan coincide and are in line with everything else in your life. For example, if you have life insurance, retirement, a home, a vacation home, etc,  you need to make sure that your documents, and the ownership or the rights into those properties of those assets, are in line with what and how you wrote your estate plan.

When you die with a will, it will go through probate, which is the process of the court administering your will, making sure all of your assets are together and accounted for, and then dispersing those assets according to your wishes.

There are two main types of trusts: a revocable living trust, and an irrevocable trust. The biggest differences are that a revocable living trust can be changed anytime, whereas an irrevocable trust cannot be changed without a court order. This is because the assets that are in an irrevocable trust are no longer considered your assets or part of your estate—they belong to the trust, therefor you do not have the right of ownership to act on those assets without permission from the court. Irrevocable living trusts, while offering less flexibility to make changes, allow people to disclaim an asset from their estate, which can have tax benefits, or protect that asset from creditors.

A power of attorney grants another individual the ability to act as if they were you, in the event that you became incapacitated, or when you feel is necessary. This person can then act on your behalf to manage pay your bills, your debts, manage all your assets and make sure that your day to day life doesn't stop because you're not able to take action.

An advanced directive is similar to a power of attorney, but applies solely to healthcare decisions. Whereas a power of attorney makes choices for your financial endeavors, an advanced directive would make decisions such as when to take you off life support, etc.

If you would like to speak with one of our family law attorneys regarding your unique family law matter, call our office at (503) 227-0200 to schedule a free consultation, or visit our website at https://www.landerholmlaw.com/

 

Disclaimer: Nothing in this communication is intended to provide legal advice nor does it constitute a client-attorney relationship, therefore you should not interpret the contents as such. If you require legal assistance, you can call our office to set up a consultation with one of our seasoned family law attorneys.

Intro:

Welcome to Modern Family Matters, a podcast hosted by Steve Altishin, our Director of Client Partnerships here at Landerholm Family Law. We are devoted to exploring topics within the realm of family law that matter most to you. Our discussions will cover a wide range of both legal and personal issues that accompany family law matters. We strongly believe that life events such as marriages, divorces, re-marriages, births, adoptions, children, growing up, growing older, illnesses and deaths do not dissolve a family. Rather, they provide the opportunity to reconfigure and strengthened family dynamics in healthy and positive ways. With expertise from qualified attorneys and professional guests, we hope that our podcasts will help provide answers, clarity, and guidance for the better tomorrow for you and your family. Without further ado, your host, Steve Altishin.

 

Steve Altishin  1:12  

Welcome to our Facebook Live broadcast. I'm Steve Altishin, and I'm the Director of Client Partnerships here at Landerholm Family Law. Today I'm back with Triston Dallas, our estate planning attorney. Hey Triston, how you doing? 

 

Triston Dallas  1:24  

Hey Steve, how you doing? Thanks for having me again.

 

Steve Altishin  1:26  

Well, thank you for coming in. I'm doing well. So Triston, we've talked about why having an estate plan is important for everyone. Whether you're old, young, rich, not so rich. Today, let's talk about the how you go about creating an estate plan for your clients. Maybe we can hit the processes you use, the document you create, what some of the end goals are that you're solving. And hopefully, maybe we can demystify the process; you know, all the legal terminology, all the 500 year-old laws that go into some of these things, maybe we can make them more accessible to people today. And with that, everyone tuned in, please feel free to send us questions while we're on the air. We'll try to get them answered as best we can. So Triston, let's just start at the beginning. Let's start with the basics. What is an estate plan?

 

Triston Dallas  2:18  

Yeah, great question. Really, it can be a lot of things. I will say, the most known or understood structure of an estate plan is having a will and some other form of documents that states your intentions and wishes as to your estate or your property in the event of your passing. That's probably what most people think about when they think, "Oh, estate planning, I'm going to go get a will done". That's part of it. It's definitely not all, and it's definitely not the only thing that can be done. In reality, estate planning is just; the plan itself is a series of documents that are put together by an attorney on behalf of a client to explain those wishes, but also in those documents are things like a power of attorney, or an advanced directive, or a disposition of remains. It's an amalgamation of documents. And it's not just talking about your property, or what happens when you die. It's also explaining who's going to be in what roles in your estate plan. Who are the people that contact? How do you want your remains to be processed or disposed of in the event of a death? Who you want to step in if you've got young children? Those types of things. So it's definitely having a will, it's definitely potentially having a trust, and it's definitely having documents. But the other side of estate planning that a lot of people don't really think about is that there's a reason why we call it a plan, because it's not just a document. Otherwise, they would just say 'an estate document', or just a will or trust. It's a plan because we need to make sure that your will, your trust, or what have you, coincides or is in line with everything else in your life. So if you've got life insurance, retirement, your home, you've got a vacation home, you've got a timeshare, that type of thing-- you need to make sure that your documents, and the ownership or the rights into those properties of those assets, are in line with what and how you wrote your estate plan, or your will or your trust.

 

Steve Altishin  4:22  

Well then, let's start with the 'when you die' part. We'll start with the will. The Last Will and Testament, as they say. What is that for? What does it do? How do you make one?

 

Triston Dallas  4:40  

Yep. Great. So in Oregon specifically, each state's a little bit different, but for the most part all states are going to say it needs to be in writing. It needs to be signed, and witnessed. Those are kind of the bare bones as to what a will could be. It doesn't have to be something specific-- you can technically write your own will, but I would never recommend it, because sometimes you can write things and do things in a way in which you don't understand exactly what you've just signed to. But in reality, a will itself just needs to be in writing, and just need to be witnessed. When you have an attorney do it, it's going to explain not just where you want your assets to go in the event of your passing, but like I mentioned before, it'll stay "Okay, if you've got young children, who do you want to step in and be a guardian or a custodian?" Let's say you're a single mom and you've got two young children with a father who had passed previously, well it'd be great for you to list an individual for the court to look to watch over your children in the event of your passing. And so the will itself, the document itself, once you've passed away, and there's the original or certified copy, it'll go to the court and the court will say "Okay, this is valid". And they're going to adhere to your instructions, which is what your will is, it's your instructions. And the probate, which is the process of administering the will, will go through and make sure all of your assets are together, they're accounted for, and then they're going to, legally through their process, disseminate or disperse those assets according to your wishes.

 

Steve Altishin  6:21  

So the court will distributed it on a probate, you die, unfortunately. And the court says, "You want all these things to happen. You want the house to go to X, you want the property to go to y", and you said that then it's administered. Who administers it?

 

Triston Dallas  6:38  

Great question. In the old days, or I say old days, but they used to just say the executor or executrix. That's still a term that's used today, most like people to say personal representative. Those terms are synonymous. So an executor and a personal representative are relative to the same thing. And that individual was a person you named in your will to state: "I want this person to be the individual that deals with the probate attorney, that deals with the probate court, and administers my estate". So the person who is the personal representative, in the event of your passing, they're going to be the one that's going to do the accounting as to all of your assets. They're going to go find everything. If you've got vacation homes in Canada, and you got a timeshare in Mexico, what have you, they're going to find all those assets, and they're gonna bring it together. Digital, paper assets, any of those things. They're gonna follow your bank accounts, anything you own, and they're gonna compile it so they can talk with the attorney, explain what's all there, and then provide that information to the court. So it's an important role because you want to be able to find somebody that you trust, that's going to be thorough, but also an individual that's going to be detail oriented, so you make sure that things aren't overlooked. Obviously, they don't have to do anything on their own. There are attorneys that can help assist with that, like ourselves, that would be able to assist with a probate process. But that individual is kind of the, let's call it the poster boy or poster girl for a lack of a better term, for your estate. They're going to be the front person.

 

Steve Altishin  8:08  

Now, are there any laws that restrict them? If, let's say, you want your house to go to your brother and your executor/personal representative says, "Well, let's give it to your sister", and you're dead by then, so can they do that?

 

Triston Dallas  8:28  

No, no, they must follow the rules and the wishes of your document. In the event that your document does not speak to something specifically, a good written or well written estate plan or will is going to have a statement about a residue or contingent beneficiaries, those types of things. So really nothing is going to go unallocated in your estate. The personal representative or the executor does not have unilateral authority or autonomy to change the wishes in a will. So if you state that you want your bank account from onpoint to go to little brother, that bank account from onpoint, after administration of the will through probate, is going to go to little brother, as long as little brother is still with us.

 

Steve Altishin  9:14  

So once you've drafted the will, I guess that's why it's so important to come to you, because if it's well-drafted, you can pretty much rest assured the things you want to happen are going to happen. 

 

Triston Dallas  9:27  

Yeah. And that's what's great about the probate process. And we'll touch on this a little bit when we talk about trusts, but some people sometimes will want to avoid probate. But sometimes I actually recommend that a family goes through it, and it really just depends on the scenario in each case. But that's the great thing about the probate process, that it's so streamlined, so put together and formulated, that it does what is needed to be done to account for everything and make sure at theverything goes exactly where it's supposed to. And going back to the personal representative, they're considered a fiduciary. So it's like the highest responsibility for a "lay" person, they have to follow strict rules. And if they were to do anything improper, or if they were to, you know, unilaterally try to change the wishes in somebody's will, or hide assets, those types of things, they would be liable for that. As long as it's found out, they would be on the hook for those things. And so that individual has a great responsibility. It sounds a little bit more daunting than it is. But the gravity of the responsibility, and the level of responsibility, is high.

 

Steve Altishin  10:42  

It sounds like the will is really a bedrock for what you're doing when you start your estate plan. But let's say you want to give money to your children and your children are 14 when you die. Is there some way that you can make it so that they don't get the money right away? How do you affect certain things such as that? I know you mentioned a trust.

 

Triston Dallas  11:07  

Yeah, there are rules for transfer to minors. But if you were to pass away, let's say you have children who are under the age of 18. Like I said, a well drafted will will have information about a custodian. And a custodian is just an individual that manages the assets of somebody that's under age, until that person comes of age, or comes to an age in which you have designated in the will, a lot of times it's 22, sometimes 18, it could be up to 25. But all that means is if you've got somebody that's 14, and you want to make sure they don't get any assets out of your estate until they reach the age of 18, then a custodian, if you've listed one, is going to be essentially given those assets. And if you didn't list one, the court can appoint one through a further process, or the attorney can request that one is appointed through a process so that that 14 year old is not going to come into a lot of money. According to the law, they're not supposed to manage their own affairs anyway. So they're not going to get an inheritance in which  there isn't an adult that's overseeing it.

 

Steve Altishin  12:22  

Can you change your will?

 

Triston Dallas  12:22  

Absolutely. You can change your will at any time. The most effective way; if your will is not registered with the court, which you don't have to register it but sometimes it's beneficial; if you were to just destroy your copy of your will and instruct your attorney, if they have a certified copy of the executed will, and destroy those, your will is effectively no longer in existence. If you wanted to change the will and have a new one, each will, especially in the way that I draft them, will just state that the will that we're drafting is essentially the foremost will and all previous ones are rejected or deemed invalid. Just to say that, okay, if there are others out there, those are invalid. This is the one that's in play here. But yes, you can change a will at any time, obviously up until you have passed away. 

 

Steve Altishin  13:19  

I like that. So let's go to trusts. I know there's all kinds of trusts and they've all got names that are unfathomable, at some points, to understand what they are. Can you fill us in on what trusts are, what they do, and what they're there for?

 

Triston Dallas  13:36  

Yeah. So trusts are another vehicle that can be used in an estate plan and creating an estate plan. The first thing I'll say is the biggest difference between a trust and a will really is just avoiding probate. So we talked about the probate process, which was just the process in which the court goes through in administering your estate. Having a trust can avoid that based on everything that's in the trust. So as long as the trust is funded, you don't necessarily have to go through the probate process and the court process to disseminate or disperse any assets in the trust based on your guidance or your wishes in the trust. That being said, when you don't have probate, it means you don't have that backing, so to speak. The court is going to go through a specific process to make sure your i's are dotted and your t's are crossed. When you have a trust, you don't really have that because the individual who does the dispersing is the trustee. And so that's the individual you choose. If you write a trust to say, "All right, in the event of my passing, you're going to follow the instructions in the trust and disperse the assets according to those instructions". But you're not required to go to court to do those things. That also means that the trustee is probably going to have to do some things like, "Okay, let's find out where all of their debts and stuff are and make sure that all creditors are paid" and all those things. In the probate process, the court makes sure that that happens. With the trust, not so much. I mean, there is some wiggle room there and I won't get into the nitty gritty, but you're a little bit more on your own. That being said, the trust has a little more leeway as to the types of things you can do. And so, there are two main types of trusts: you have a living trust or a revocable living trust, and an irrevocable trust. The biggest differences are just in the name: one can be changed anytime. A revokable living trust is a trust that you've created now, you have funded now, and over the course of your lifetime, you can decide, "Okay, I want to take something out of the trust, or I want to put more things into the trust. I don't want to have the trust anymore at all."You can do all those things. When you have an irrevocable trust, essentially you put all these things in a trust, you've created it. And then it's sealed, for lack of a better term. And whatever is in there and how it was drafted is done. It's over with, it's in the trust. The trust owns it and you can't take it out at all without court order. You'd have to go to the court for them to grant your release to change what's in the trust. Because technically, under the law, if you put something into an irrevocable trust, it's no longer part of your estate. You, as an individual, no longer own that asset. And I'll put in quotations "own that asset". When you have a revocable living trust, the trust is just acting as an extension, or arm, to you as the individual. And so you can put something into a revocable living trust, and you can go in and take it out if you don't want that to be in the trust anymore. You still have complete access to use the assets whatsoever. In an irrevocable trust, you could have some leeway there to have access to the asset. But in reality, you don't technically own it anymore.

 

Steve Altishin  17:11  

So why would anyone do an irrevocable trust if it means they lose complete control of their stuff? There's got to be a reason to do it, isn't there?

 

Triston Dallas  17:22  

Yeah, great question. Sometimes people want to "disclaim" an asset from their estate, which could have some tax benefits down the road for that individual, or they want to make sure that a creditor can't get to a specific asset. Sometimes people do that if they're worried about things like that. I've had the example of a client with a cosigner on somebody else's student loan, which was an extreme amount, and that person no longer was paying on that student loan. And so they wanted to make sure that some assets that they had could not be essentially attacked by a creditor. So an irrevocable trust seemed to make sense in that case. But it really just depends, a lot of it is usually just trying to move money around and save on taxes or any type of debt.

 

Steve Altishin  18:18  

Yeah, that makes sense. If you don't own it, you probably don't have to pay taxes on it. So now, let's say you create a trust or you have someone create a trust, and they no longer own it. Who has control over it? Who decides what to do with that stuff at that point, or how does that get done?

 

Triston Dallas  18:40  

Yeah. So the the trustee is the individual that has the autonomy or discretion as to the assets in the trust, given your instructions of how the trust was drafted. When you have an irrevocable living trust, nine times out of 10 the trustee is the actual person creating the trust. So let's say Steve, we are creating a trust for you, you would be the grantor or settler of the trust, you're the one that's creating the trust. But then you could also be the trustee, which means you are the individual that's managing the trust and assets within it. So therefore, you've created this trust, you've put assets in it, but you still have access to utilize everything. And so the trustee to a trust is the same as a personal representative to a will. So that individual is managing and following the instructions inside the trust and making sure that the trust is administered in the way in which you want it to be.

 

Steve Altishin  19:36  

It sounds like a flexible way to kind of deal with your stuff while you're still dead. So can you put a trust into a will? Can you give someone some of your stuff from your will and then have that put into a trust?

 

Triston Dallas  19:55  

Absolutely. And that's actually called a testamentary trust. And that can also be revocable or  irrevocable. Essentially, it would be a trust within a will, a drafted will, that says, let's say Johnny drafts his will, and in the trust he wants to make sure that anything that goes to his son goes to a trust for his son. So the trust isn't actually created, it's drafted. The terms are there, the words are there, the document is there. But the trust has not come into existence until the owner or the writer, the creator of the trust, essentially goes out of existence. So if Johnny was to die, that's when the trust would come to life and anything that was supposed to go to his son will go into the trust. And then the trust will be administered by the trustee, which Johnny can choose, and it will be followed to the T.

 

Steve Altishin  20:53  

Both of these, wills and trusts, sound like they not only are able to transfer the properties you may want to transfer, but they also are documents that designate somebody to do it for you when you're dead. Are there any other ways that you can use in creating an estate plan that can transfer responsibility for your property when you're not dead, before you die? Are there situations that can arise that you need to draft something to do something like that?

 

Triston Dallas  21:32  

Yeah, yeah, great question. So you have your trust. And the trust itself is something that can change and will involve as you're alive. And so there's kind of that as well. There's that as an option that if something was to happen to you now, but you're not passed away, how are things managed? And so anything that's within your trust, you will list the trustee for your trust, which could be you, but then if you have a successor trustee, that person will then step in and act on your behalf for managing the trust. But another option that you have is dealing with the power of attorney. And a power of attorney would essentially grant another individual the ability to act as if they were you. In the event, for example, you became incapacitated, or some other event depending on what you decide and feel is necessary. For example, you could have something which is called a supreme power of attorney. And I've seen things like this with clients who decided they want to go into the Peace Corps, or they want to do a mission and they're going to a "third world country" or a country that's riddled by war, and they want to help that way. Well clearly there's a danger there and they're probably a little bit worried about life. And so they create a power of attorney that says, "While I'm overseas, or while I'm in this country, this individual has the ability to act on my behalf to make sure that all of my assets or all of my affairs in America are handled". In the same way, you can do that if you become incapacitated, you get in a car accident, you haven't passed away but you're unconscious for weeks on end. Then an individual who you have listed, and given the power to, can act on your behalf to manage your bills and pay your bills, all your debts, manage all your assets and make sure that your day to day life, so to speak, doesn't stop because you're not able to take action.

 

Steve Altishin  23:25  

Does the power of attorney last forever? I mean, does it stop?

 

Triston Dallas  23:30  

It can. Yeah, you can have a durable kind of general Power of Attorney that will go on indefinitely until either you get rid of the document or revoke the power of attorney in some way. This can be done in writing, it can be done by destroying the document, it can be done by telling the individuals who have been relying on the power of attorney that it has been revoked. The best way, obviously, is just to make sure it's in writing and that everybody knows. But it doesn't have to go on forever. Like I said, it can be for a specific time period. It can be for a specific instance. It can be, which is very common in my practice, just having a general power of attorney that doesn't actually activate and is only activated when someone is incapacitated. If they're not incapacitated, it's never active. And while they're incapacitated, it's active. And if they wake up and they're normal and they're healthy again, the power of attorney essentially goes dormant. And if they become incapacitated again, they don't have to redraft the document. The documents already there. The power is already given, but they just can't act until they're incapacitated.

 

Steve Altishin  24:40  

Seems like a power of attorney works well with a will or a trust.

 

Triston Dallas  24:47  

Yeah, absolutely. I would always recommend that if you're going to draft a will, draft a power of attorney in some respects, because anything can happen. It doesn't necessarily mean that it's going to be fatal, obviously. I think there was a statistic that I read last year that says about one in three people will have been incapacitated in some way in their life. And so it's a very good chance that something is going to happen. It doesn't mean that you'll be unconscious. But something may happen to you where you'll be bedridden, or in the hospital for a long period of time in which if you don't have these things, and you've got a mortgage, and you've got car payments, you've got other bills, and you've got all these subscriptions and all these things. Those things are just going to keep running. And just because you become incapacitated doesn't mean that the mortgage company isn't going to come looking for payment. So you need to make sure that somebody can manage those things and work with those organizations in the event of your incapacitation.

 

Steve Altishin  25:48  

Talking about incapacitation and health. I know that there's a thing called a living will, an advanced directive, appointment of a healthcare representative. What are those?

 

Triston Dallas  26:03  

Yeah, another great question. So those are very similar to the power of attorney. And so I want to make sure that we are clear that there's a separation between a power of attorney in Oregon. A power of attorney is an individual that is handling your financial affairs and assets. So, like I said, paying for your home, manage your bank accounts, manage your investments, those type of things. A living will, our advanced directive, is a "power of attorney" just for your healthcare. And just for things regarding, if you become incapacitated, who's going to make the decision as to your treatment? Who is the doctor going to look to, because they can't ask you because you just can't answer any questions. And so they need to go to somebody who you have listed to make those decisions. Another part of the advanced directive is to explain, Okay, if I'm in hospice, or if I'm alive but only kept on a ventilator, or will only stay alive while on a ventilator, you can designate an individual to make the decision if they're going to "pull the plug", or take you off ventilation or tube feeding. But also part of the document, you can actually list if you want to receive those types of treatments at all if a doctor has designated that you're only being kept alive by those things. You have a lot of wiggle room there. But there is a difference between the individual who makes the choices for your health care as opposed to your financial endeavors.

 

Steve Altishin  27:30  

Right. You had mentioned right off at the beginning of this, that there's a lot of other things you can do, not just the legal documents, and those are all that we've talked about so far-- legal documents that I'm assuming you would either draft or help them fill out if it was a form. But you mentioned life insurance, and I thought that was interesting how that would fit into an estate plan.

 

Triston Dallas  27:56  

Yeah. Great question. Life insurance is a great tool that a lot of people use, and people kind of just look at it as like, "In case something happens to me, I want to make sure that my family has money to pay for bills and those types of things, cover a mortgage". Which is a great tool. I would recommend families to look through those things if it makes sense. But another way is some people just want to create generational wealth in a way that they can have a permanent life insurance policy that will make sure that money goes through children for their education, those types of things. But what is important, and I mentioned this before, is coordinating all of your different pieces of your estate plan. So your life insurance is a part of your estate plan. Whether you think of it like that or not, it is. But if you say that "I want everything in my estate to go to my son", but in your life insurance, you actually wrote your daughter's name as a beneficiary, that life insurance company is not going to question twice about your estate as to where the money's supposed to go. This is a big issue, for example, for individuals who get divorced, and they list their life insurance beneficiary as their wife, they get divorced, they pass away. And this could have been years later and their wife is still listed as a beneficiary. And even though they may have changed their wills, and say all of my assets to go to my children and not my spouse, like I said, that life insurance company is going to write a check to the wife, because she's listed as the beneficiary. And so we need to make sure that things are coordinated there. But it's a great tool. Life insurance is a big thing that is used in special needs planning and special needs trusts, those types of things. And we won't really get into that today, but it's something that, like I said, it's a part of your estate plan, whether you realize it or not. Same thing with your retirement accounts--it's a part of your estate plan, whether you think of it like that or not.

 

Steve Altishin  28:27  

That makes complete sense. And again, your job is to not let anything fall through the cracks. So you can do as much as you want legally, in terms of letting everyone know what your intent is, "This is how I want my estate distributed. This is how I want my money now distributed". But there are so many little points that don't necessarily go into those documents. I know I've heard of a thing called a letter of intent. What is that?

 

Triston Dallas  30:34  

Yeah. So it's been called a few things. A letter of intent I've probably heard more used in special needs planning. But essentially, it's a document in which it'll explain the things and the minor details of your life that don't get put into your will or your trust. For example, for special needs planning, part of your letter of intent is going to explain the care of the individual's family member who has special needs. So who their doctors are, who their close friends are, where they get treatment and those types of things. Those things aren't really going to be within your will or trust. They're not going to be a part of those documents. But you can create something else that just lists all those things. For people who don't have special needs family members, part of a document like that just explains like, What are all the subscriptions you're a part of? The clubs you're a part of? Those types of things. If you have a safe, what's the safe combination? What's the password to any electronic assets or subscriptions or organizations, whether it be Facebook or an investment account like e-trade, or anything like that? Have all that someplace. People who have a safe or safe deposit boxes, I always recommend to do that, create it, put it in a safe deposit box. Explain to your personal representative or a close friend where that safe deposit box is sothat  it can be found, and those instructions and  information is going to be in there. Or give a copy to your personal representative if you trust them to have it right away. But a letter of intent or something like that, it's just gonna be a set of bulleted information as to things that don't go within your will itself, or trust. 

 

Steve Altishin  32:27  

Wow. Well, it sounds like we've covered a lot of the big deals. Your will tells you what to do when you die, a trust tells you either when you die or now how you want to divide things and when you want to divide things, your power of attorney gives power of attorneys, your health directive. You make sure that all the beneficiary directions are the same so that, like you said, you're not giving a life insurance policy to someone you don't really want to because you've set your estate plan differently. You talked about even digital assets, which is cool. So, thank you. I mean, that was a great explanation. It kind of brings it down to why you really need to do something. Yeah. And I'd like to thank again Triston. This is our third one, and they're all great. If someone wants to get a hold of us, or if someone wants to get a hold of you, do you have any recommendations how to do this to start to talk about these kinds of things?

 

Triston Dallas  33:25  

Yeah. If somebody has any questions or would like to discuss an estate plan, or how to get started, or just anything: specifically for this video on Facebook Live, they can look into the description of the video, there's information about how to get in contact with us, get in contact with Steve, and get something set up. Otherwise, they are able to call our office, which that information is also in the description below.

 

Steve Altishin  33:51  

Perfect, perfect. And so again, thank you very much. And I just want to say, thanks everyone else for being here and listening. And like Triston said, if you have any further questions at all, you can put them down. Comments, send them to me- steve@landerholmlaw.com. I'm happy to forward them on. Also, if you have any questions about what we've talked about today or you have any other issues you want to just talk about, or you think that there's another topic you'd like to hear, again, shoot me an email. So with that, until next time everyone. Stay safe, stay healthy, enjoy the weather and 

 

Triston Dallas  34:33  

Be well everyone.

 

Outro:

You're listening to Modern Family Matters a legal podcast, focusing on providing real answers and direction for individuals and families as they navigate the growths, changes, and challenges of creating their new family dynamics. Modern Family Matters is sponsored by Landerholm Family Law, serving Oregon and the Pacific Northwest and devoted to providing clients with compassionate and fierce legal advocacy with a firm belief in the importance of upholding the family unit amidst complex transitions. If you are in need of legal counsel or have additional questions about a family law matter important to you, you can visit our Landerholm Family website www.landerholmfamilylaw.com, or call us at (503) 227-0200 to schedule a case evaluation with one of our seasoned attorneys. Modern Family Matters, advocating for your better tomorrow and offering solutions on legal matters, important to the modern family.