Author Archives: Anne Villella

Wills and trusts serve a number of important purposes when you die.  They allow you to designate how you wish your property to be distributed to your loved ones. In addition, they allow you to designate guardians for your children and who you wish to administer the distribution of your estate or act as a trustee of your trust.

If you do not have a will, trust, or use some other means to transfer your property, state law steps in when you die to determine who receives your property. In Oregon, if you are married, your spouse will usually receive your property. However, if this is a second marriage and there are children from other relationships, then the property will be divided between your spouse and children, regardless of your wishes or the age of your children.

If you are not married and do not have children, then other relatives—such as aunts and uncles or nieces and nephews or others—will receive your property. If no relatives can be found, then the state will receive your property.

As you can see, a will or trust can give you peace of mind that your property will pass to those you intend to benefit: family members, loved ones, or your favorite charity. The default state law does not provide that same peace of mind.

There are other reasons to have a will or trust and to work with an estate planning attorney to prepare other documents, such as a power of attorney and advance directive for healthcare. Without a will or trust, a judge will determine who will care for your young children and their property if the other parent is unavailable or unfit. If you have a significant other but are not married, your surviving partner will not receive anything. If you do not have an advance directive for healthcare, your significant other will not be allowed to make healthcare decisions for you when you are unable to do so. Rather, state law will determine who has a say in your healthcare.  In addition, without a will or trust, a judge will decide who will take responsibility for administering your estate and handling your personal affairs after your death.

Some property passes to beneficiaries without the need for probate and, even if there were a will, would not transfer under the will.  These assets include the following:

    • life insurance death benefits where the decedent named beneficiaries.
    • assets held with survivorship rights, such as tenancy by the entirety.
    • funds held in a retirement account, such as an IRA, 401(k) or pension, where the decedent named beneficiaries
    • stocks and investment accounts held in payable on death Accounts (POD)
    • real estate subject to a transfer on death deed (TODD).
    • property held in a trust.

Please contact us for a free initial consultation if you need to plan your estate or update an existing estate plan.  

Phone: 503-639-6176 or Email:


A power of attorney is an important lifetime planning tool. A power of attorney is a document that gives a person the power to act on your behalf under circumstances you designate during your lifetime. These circumstances often include if you become unable to act on your own behalf because of illness or incapacity.  Other circumstances include granting specific authority to conduct your affairs while you are traveling abroad. The power may be limited or temporary, such as granting an individual the power to pay your bills. Alternatively, the power may be general or permanent, granting an individual the power to carry out all your financial affairs.

As part of an estate plan, an individual may execute what is called a durable power of attorney that may take effect in the event you become unable to act on your own behalf due to mental or physical disability caused by the effects of aging or illness. By having a durable power of attorney in place, you and your loved ones can avoid going through a court proceeding to appoint a conservator to act on your behalf. If the court appoints a conservator, you will not have the opportunity to decide who that individual will be and the court proceeding is a matter of public record.

The person you name in the power of attorney to act on your behalf may only take those actions permitted in the document. Thus, the power of attorney can be tailored to your specific circumstances and wishes. For example, if the power of attorney authorizes the person to pay your bills and manage your investments, the agent may carry out those actions. However, other actions excluded from the power of attorney would not be permissible. For example, some individuals may grant their agent the power to make gifts to individuals or charities, while other individuals may exclude from the power of attorney the power to make gifts.

Durable powers of attorney stay in effect until revoked. Thus, if you have a power of attorney and later wish to revoke it, you may do so, provided you have the mental capacity to do so. Usually, to revoke a power of attorney, you must give written notice to the person named to act on your behalf. If you do not revoke the power of attorney, the power expires upon death. Thus, the power of attorney is only effective during life. Upon death, a will or trust will govern the management of your affairs and the distribution of your estate.

Choosing someone you wish to act on your behalf and deciding what authority you wish to give to that person are important considerations. You will want to choose someone you trust to act on your behalf and who is capable of carrying out your financial affairs with integrity. Often, individuals appoint their spouse or an adult child. Other times, individuals appoint a trusted advisor or friend. In addition to deciding who to appoint, you will work with your estate planning attorney to determine the scope of authority you wish to grant so that the authority is consistent with your needs, values, and your estate planning objectives.

Please contact us for a free initial consultation if you need to plan your estate or update an existing estate plan.  

Phone: 503-639-6176 or Email:

In Oregon, a legal document called an Advance Directive gives you a voice in your medical care in the event you become unable to make your own health care decisions.  For this reason, we recommend that our clients execute an Advance Directive as part of their healthcare and end of life planning.

The Advance Directive allows you to appoint a Health Care Representative to make healthcare decisions for you.  In selecting the Health Care Representative, you may want to consider who you trust to make decisions consistent with your wishes, who you believe will be available to step into that role, and who will keep your best interests and wishes in mind.  It is a good idea to appoint both a primary Health Care Representative and an alternate Health Care Representative, in the event the primary representative is unavailable to serve.

A Health Care Representative cannot choose to end your life under Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act or take any overt action to end your life.

The Health Care Representative you select will have the legal power to make healthcare decisions, but only if you are unable to do so.  Once you sign an Advance Directive, you continue to have the right to make your own decisions.  However, once you become unable to make a health care decision on your own, the Health Care Representative steps into that role.  Reasons an individual might not be able to make their own decisions may include chronic conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, or temporary conditions, such as falling unconscious.  In all events, the Health Care Representative may only make decisions about health care.  The decision-making power does not extend to other areas of your life, such as financial decision-making.

If you do not have an Advance Directive, your health care providers will rely on others to make decisions on your behalf.  Under Oregon law, if an individual does not have an Advance Directive, then the following individuals have priority for health care decision-making:  legal guardian, spouse, majority of adult children, and then close friends.  Those individuals may be who you would choose as your Health Care Representative. However, without written instructions, those individuals may not know your wishes. Thus, taking the time to complete an Advance Directive provides those you love the guidance they will need to honor your wishes.

Once you have signed an Advance Directive, you should:

  • Give a copy of the Advance Directive to your physician for your medical records and discuss your decisions with him or her.
  • Share your wishes with and give a copy to your Advance Directive to your Health Care Representative and alternate Health Care Representative.
  • Keep your signed, original Advance Directive where it can be easily found and let loved ones know where it is.  Do not keep it in a safe deposit box or other location that requires a key or authorization.
  • If you have to be admitted to a care facility or hospital, take a copy with you to be placed in your chart or medical file.

Communicate your wishes to your Health Care Representative. Your Health Care Representative has a duty to act consistently with your desires as expressed in you Advance Directive or with your desires as communicated at any time to the representative. If the Health Care Representative does not know your wishes, then the representative must make decisions in good faith based on what he or she believes to be your best interests. For these reasons, it is important to communicate your wishes to your representative. For example, you might discuss where you would want to die if given a choice — such as at home, in hospice care, or at a hospital or care facility. You might want to share your thoughts about quality of life and what it means to you. Or, you may want to share your thoughts about other values, such as prolonging life, knowing your family, managing pain, or financial matters related to health care.  For some individuals, discussing religious beliefs and decision-making that is consistent with those religious beliefs is important.

If you change your mind and wish to revoke an Advance Directive, you may do so. However, you must communicate your decision to revoke the Advance Directive directly to your physician, health care provider, or your Health Care Representative.

Please contact us for a free initial consultation if you need an Advance Directive or if you need to plan your estate or update an existing estate plan.  

Phone: 503-639-6176 or Email:


We all hope that the money we pass along to family and loved ones will bless their lives. We may hope the money will allow them to flourish and find meaningful work.  Or, we may hope the money will allow them to grow their own financial success, perhaps allowing them to purchase a family home, seek an education, or start a business.

However, studies show that merely creating an estate plan that provides for our loved ones may not be enough.  Rather, communicating with loved ones about money, the estate plan, and our personal values, allows our loved ones to prepare and gain an understanding of what the hopes and values were that led to our decision-making. Without those conversations, an unexpected or sudden transfer of money, property, or family heirlooms, can lead to family strain following the death of a parent or grandparent.

Unfortunately, many people find discussing money difficult.  A 2014 survey* showed that among Americans, 36% indicated they were uncomfortable talking about money and 18% indicated that money was a taboo subject in their families.   

So where do you start?  A family meeting or individual conversations with adult children or other loved ones about the estate plan, the values you hold around money — such as spending, saving, the value of meaningful work, and charitable giving–may be a good place to start. It’s refreshing to know that often these conversations create a sense of connectedness and harmony among family members. By simply sitting down to talk,  loved ones can understand what you hope to accomplish with your estate plans and how you hope an inheritance will bless them rather than burden them.

If you are interested in learning more about successful wealth transfers and preparing loved ones for carrying out your estate plan, you might check out Preparing Heirs: Five Steps to a Successful Transition of Family Wealth and Values by Roy Williams & Vic Preisser, While the book focuses primarily on the wealthy, many of the topics the book addresses apply to any family that wishes to enhance family harmony in preparing for and following the transfer of family assets.

Please contact us for a free initial consultation if you need to plan your estate or update an existing estate plan.  

Phone: 503-639-6176 or Email:


*American Psychological Association’s 2014 Stress in America Survey.



A thoughtfully prepared estate plan can bring tremendous peace of mind. An estate plan helps ensure the money and other assets we’ve work hard for are preserved and passed on to the loved ones or charitable organizations you care about. But, a well-crafted estate plan can address many other concerns we might have.

A well-crafted estate plan can, among other things:

  • Provide security for your spouse as he or she continues with life solo.
  • Empower children to pursue their dreams while making financial resources available for major life events.
  • Provide for children and grandchildren in a way that guards against overspending and helps them learn to wisely manage their money.
  • Provide for children in a way that encourages harmony and family unity rather than discord.
  • Provide for a favorite charitable organization whose mission you have supported during your lifetime.
  • Identify those you trust to carry out your plan and make healthcare decisions if you are unable to do so.
  • Identify guardians for minor children.
  • Plan for unexpected circumstances such as incapacity.

We want our loved ones to live full lives in which they prosper emotionally, spiritually, and financially. Estate planning is one step we can take toward that goal. 

The initial phone call to an estate planning attorney can bring a sense of relief. While planning requires us to speak about money, face our mortality, and share our hopes, dreams, and concerns about loved ones or charitable organizations we wish to benefit, finding a trusted and respected estate planning attorney allows us to speak with candor about these topics.

We understand our clients have a range of concerns as they enter into the process of planning their estate. So, we’re here to listen first, answer questions, and work with our clients to develop a plan that addresses those concerns. Communication, professional, thoughtful, and personalized service that meets individual client needs and gives our clients peace of mind are our goals.

Please contact us for a free initial consultation if you need to plan your estate or update an existing estate plan.  

Phone: 503-639-6176 or Email:

A trust is one of the common estate planning options individuals or couples choose. Trusts used in estate planning include revocable and irrevocable trusts created by agreement during the life of the trust settlor—i.e. the person who creates the trust. Revocable trusts (often called a “living trust” or “inter vivos trust”) are the most common trusts that an individual or couple creates during their lifetime. During life, property is held in the trust and managed by the trustee, who is often the settlor who created the trust.

Like a will, a trust can provide instructions for how the trust property is to be distributed upon death. The trust may end upon the death of the settlor and provide instructors for how trust property is to be distributed among the beneficiaries. However, the trust might also provide that it continue for a number of years and the income and principal of the trust be distributed over time. For example, the trust may provide income to beneficiaries each year and principal for specific purposes – such as for health, education, or support. Then, when the beneficiaries reach a certain age, the trust may provide that it is to end and the trustee is to distribute the balance of the trust property to the beneficiaries.

In the estate planning context, a trust provides great flexibility and serves a variety of purposes, such as:

  • To ensure privacy in the transfer of property
  • To manage investments and other assets during life, upon incapacity or illness, and upon death
  • To protect property for beneficiaries, including protection from creditors
  • To avoid a conservatorship for minors and other persons who are legally incapacitated
  • To avoid probate and the costs associated with probate
  • To save taxes, including federal and estate and inheritance taxes, as well as income taxes.
  • To reduce the likelihood of a challenge made by disappointed beneficiaries.

Although there are tremendous benefits to trusts, not everyone needs one. Whether a trust is a suitable vehicle for holding and transferring property depends on individual circumstances and goals. For many individuals a will is the most suitable and cost efficient vehicle for distribution of property to beneficiaries. For more information on wills, you might read the following article on Wills: What They Accomplish.

Please contact us for a free initial consultation if you need to plan your estate or update an existing estate plan.  

Phone: 503-639-6176 or Email:

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