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Estate Planning

In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. – Benjamin Franklin

It only makes sense to plan for what is certain.

Estate planning is first and foremost a method to protect and provide for your family once you are gone. There are two major things to consider when making your estate plan: Family facts and financial facts. The combination of these two factors determines how complex your estate plan needs to be. A married couple with one or more children who get along and who will inherit after their parents have passed may have a relatively easy time crafting such a plan. People with blended families, combative children, who want to benefit charities substantially, or who have a special needs family members should consult with counsel.  If you intend to disinherit someone for one reason or another, we also strongly recommend consulting with counsel.

Size isn’t everything, and a modest estate doesn’t necessarily equate to a simple estate plan. If you own a business, real estate, or have substantial debts, your estate planning deserves special attention to protect your hard-won assets. On the other hand, a large estate consisting of a handful of financial accounts can be surprisingly simple, though it may still benefit from planning to reduce or eliminate the impact of the Federal and Oregon estate tax.

While there is a proliferation of inexpensive, do-it-yourself estate planning tools available, we recommend consulting an attorney to review your documents at the very least. Several times in my practice, I have seen instances where the self-prepared document did not do what its creators intended. Furthermore, an attorney can serve as an independent, professional witness to your wishes. In my experience, the testimony of counsel can settle a will contest before it even starts. As with many things in life, an ounce of prevention can be worth a pound of cure.


Bankruptcy First Meeting

Sometimes finances get quite literally out of hand: a job loss, a divorce, personal medical issues or those of family member. Any one of these things can upend a family’s finances to the point where normal recovery just isn’t an option. The last six years have been difficult for many, and things are only just being to look better. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a chance to reset and start into the improving market with a clean slate. During the first meeting, I often have clients tell me they have no idea what to expect.

Tips for a successful first Chapter 7 Bankruptcy meeting:

  1. Know where you stand: Your lawyer isn’t going to expect you to know every dime your creditors claim you owe or remember every outstanding bill. That said, it’s good to have a ballpark idea on what’s owing. Is it ten thousand? Is it one hundred thousand or is it more? Secured debts are the most important—have an idea about specific amounts owing on your car and house. You’ll also want to know how much that house and car are worth and what your income picture has been like over the last 6 months. In my practice, you don’t have to have exact numbers at the first meeting, but we’ll have a lot more to talk about if you have a general idea about the above things.
  2. Have a goal: There are a number of good goals for bankruptcy, such as delaying foreclosure, stopping creditor calls, and protecting assets. The most important goal I believe is to make the Chapter 7 an opportunity to reset your financial life. I like my client’s to be on an upward swing when they file, not still heading downward, where bankruptcy is at best a speed bump.
  3. Be open: Your lawyer’s job is to help you file your case, avoid challenges to your case from creditors, assist in presenting your case to the trustee, and help you protect your assets to the extent permitted by the law. This can’t happen without being completely open with your lawyer. I’ve seen cases where a disgruntled ex has tipped the trustee off to assets the lawyer didn’t know about—not good. Most attorney charge a flat fee for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. Talk his or her ear off during the process.
  4. Stay optimistic: Bankruptcy can be a lot of work. There are classes to take, at least one hearing to attend, documents to gather and review, and you will have to repeat yourself to your lawyer, possibly more than once. All of this is extra work at a time when you probably can’t afford it. On top of it all, your financial life is under scrutiny. All of these things can weigh on a person, but there is light at the end of this tunnel. Stay prompt, attentive, and positive. You’ll get through it

Finally, some people step into my office feeling ashamed of the position they are in. Don’t be, even if you feel you’ve made mistakes. Bankruptcy is your legal right, and by exercising it, you are taking the first step toward regaining control of your finances.


Landlord & Tenant

Do you prefer a month-to-month or a term lease or a residential tenancy? Each has its pluses and minuses. The month-to-month enables landlords to use their most powerful tool to get rid of a bad tenant, the 30-day or 60-day no-cause termination. The term lease offers at least the perception of stability and probably does encourage good tenants to stay. On the other hand, the bad tenant is still going to disappear in the middle of the night, or worse, the landlord might get stuck with them and have to rely on a fact intensive termination for cause. As a lawyer who primarily represents landlords, I generally prefer month-to-month, but that’s because I deal with bad tenants on a regular basis. While a thorough background check really is a necessity for any potential tenant, make sure to take extra care with anyone you plan to give a lease term.