Wills, Living Trusts, & Probate

Wills, Living Trusts, & Probate

Planning for life, not just death. Estate planning is about more than where your assets go in the event of your death. Have you considered whether you are prepared for a period of incapacity? Do those whom you trust have the legal authority to look after your interests? Are those interests adequately safeguarded to protect against the self-serving interests of presently estranged family?

Estate planning tends to the living, not the dead. Planning for your family’s future in the event of your incapacity or death is something that most people would prefer not to think about. However, putting off the inescapable issue could place your family and loved ones in stressful and overwhelming circumstances. If you pass away without a plan, state law will decide how to distribute your assets, your belongings, and everything you’ve worked hard for. If you pass away without proper estate planning in place, your heirs and devisees may be faced with a drawn-out probate case, especially if they do not agree on the administration and distribution of your estate. By working with an experienced Grants Pass estate planning attorney, you can create legally binding documents that will give you and your family a sense of relief and peace of mind knowing that everything is taken care of.

Wills & Estate Planning

There are many things that go into creating a will to ensure that it will be legally recognized upon your death. You must be of sound mind when creating or updating your will and it must be signed by two witnesses who also watch you sign your will. Although there are computer programs and software that promise to help you create a will, these documents can have deficiencies that prohibit them from having full legal affect. It’s not a risk you want to take. Consider an attorney as your personal sherpa, someone who can answer your questions, such as, “what is the difference between a will and revocable living trust?”


An estate is a legal entity that substitutes the individual legal status of a person when they have died.  Prior to death, an individual owns property, has debts, and both gives and receives in various relationships by contract or social dealings.  The deceased person’s ownership interest in personal property and real property (real estate) has to go somewhere eventually.  Ownership of that property (or legal title) can be transferred in a variety of ways, some of which can even occur automatically at the death of the deceased.  Who has legal title to the decedent’s property is ultimately a matter for courts to decide, unless the decedent left behind properly done estate planning documents, in which case the court will either endorse the plan or not interfere with it.  Furthermore, a deceased person’s estate is not merely about property distribution.  Before any distribution, the decedent’s debts must be paid and final tax obligations must settled.


A will is a document usually written with the help of an attorney that nominates trusted individuals to administer the estate of the will’s testator (the person creating the will).  A will sets forth directions for the trusted individuals (called personal representatives), including instructions concerning the distribution of a person’s property after they have passed. This document typically must be probated, though circumstances sometimes allow for no probate, particularly if the value of the assets are below certain limits established by Oregon law. Probate is a legal proceeding in which the decedent’s estate is settled according to law. Wills are not designed to avoid probate


People who own their home typically opt for trusts. Trusts are not exclusively for high net worth individuals. Trusts are modern will substitutes designed to address incapacity in the dusk of a lifetime and avoid the involvement of the courts for a more expeditious administration of your estate upon death. Some trusts can even help you reduce your estate’s tax liability, thus passing more of your net worth to your chosen heirs and not to the government.

Estate Administration & Probate

As mentioned above, once an individual passes away, their estate must be administered. Depending on the circumstances, the estate may need to go through the process of probate. Probate can be expensive, lengthy, and frustrating. However, not all probates are necessarily undesirable.  Sometimes they can be used to create a clean title for real estate with clouded title, reduce taxes for family who inherit property, or protect family members from unwanted litigation. By working with an experienced Grants Pass probate lawyer, you can be confident that the estate of your loved one will be smoothly administered within the Josephine County probate court.