Estate Planning

Trusted Estate Planning Law Attorneys in Vancouver WA & Portland Oregon

Attorneys at Navigate Law Group have extensive knowledge in creating a tailored estate plan to fit each client’s unique estate planning goals. At Navigate Law Group, our attorneys have experience creating estate plans for clients in both Washington and Oregon, including planning estates subject to estate tax. Creating an estate plan involves identifying the individuals clients wish to serve in important roles such as the personal representative or trustee to administer an estate or trust, the attorney-in-fact to make financial and healthcare decisions in the case of a client’s incapacity, and guardian of a client’s minor child. Estate planning involves balancing the delicate and sometimes competing interests of family members as well as an understanding of several other related areas of law, such as property law, tax law, family law, and business law. 

Our Estate Planning Attorneys Provide High-Quality Services in the Following Areas:

  • Drafting will-based estate plans and explaining the probate process. 
  • Creating living trusts with the goal of probate avoidance. 
  • Assisting clients in planning for incapacity with financial and medical powers of attorney. 
  • Helping clients to select fiduciaries is key to the process of administering an estate or trust. 
  • Drafting trusts or trust alternatives for minors inheriting assets.
  • Tax planning to reduce or eliminate estate tax. 
  • Analysis regarding creating income and estate tax-efficient strategies for charitable gifting.
Close-up of a pen on a Last Will and Testament document, symbolizing professional estate planning services by our experienced estate planning attorney in Vancouver, WA.

Wills

A will, also known as a last will & testament, is a legal document designating how you want your estate to be managed after you die, including who should your property, how should your debts and last expenses be handled, who should care for your minor children, and who should have the authority to handle your affairs after your death. The consequences of not having a valid will in place before you die can result in your property going to someone you didn’t intend for, or your children being placed in the care of someone other than the people you trust most. A carefully crafted will can ensure that your loved ones and property are cared for after you’re gone.  

One of our Navigate Law family attorneys in our Vancouver office is helping a client with a post-final order. Some common final orders that need to be modified or enforced are a Final Parenting Plan, Final Child Support Order, or Final Divorce Order.

Trusts 

It’s in the name – a trust is a legal document that places the authority and duty to manage your property in a trusted individual or organization for the benefit of someone else. Through a trust, you can create a plan where yourself, your loved ones, and/or the charitable causes you care about, can benefit from your success during your lifetime and after you’re gone. Trusts can be simple or very complicated, and can be used for many different purposes, such as long-term wealth planning, tax planning, and probate avoidance. Determining if a trust is right for you depends on your unique circumstances. Consult with a knowledgeable attorney to create an estate plan that meets your goals.

One of our Navigate Law family attorneys in our Vancouver office is helping a client with a post-final order. Some common final orders that need to be modified or enforced are a Final Parenting Plan, Final Child Support Order, or Final Divorce Order.

Powers of attorney 

Through a financial or healthcare power of attorney, you can designate an individual to be authorized to make your financial or healthcare decisions if you are unable to. If you become incapacitated due to illness, injury, or old age, your designated attorney-in-fact will be able to step in and handle your affairs for your benefit while you’re unable to do so yourself. Without a valid power of attorney in place, your loved ones will be forced to go to court to have someone appointed as a guardian or conservator to ensure your financial and healthcare needs are met. Consulting with an experienced attorney can help you establish these crucial documents and protect your interests.

One of our Navigate Law family attorneys in our Vancouver office is helping a client with a post-final order. Some common final orders that need to be modified or enforced are a Final Parenting Plan, Final Child Support Order, or Final Divorce Order.

Advance directives

An advance directive, often called a living will, allows you to communicate your end-of-life decisions to healthcare providers and loved ones. This document specifies your preferences for medical treatments, such as whether you want life-sustaining measures like mechanical ventilation or artificial nutrition if you’re unable to express your wishes. It can also include directives on pain management and organ donation. By having an advance directive, you ensure your healthcare preferences are known and respected, reducing the emotional burden on your loved ones during difficult times.

One of our Navigate Law family attorneys in our Vancouver office is helping a client with a post-final order. Some common final orders that need to be modified or enforced are a Final Parenting Plan, Final Child Support Order, or Final Divorce Order.

Estate Tax Planning 

Estate tax planning is the implementation of various strategies and tools to minimize the impact estate tax can have on your family after you’re gone. The federal government, along with many states, have the authority to impose a tax on your property when you die. Under federal law, the threshold level that your estate must be worth before any estate tax will be imposed is high – your estate can be worth $12.06 million in 2022 before our estate will be subject to estate tax. Frequently, states have a lower threshold amount for when estate tax will apply.
One of our Navigate Law family attorneys in our Vancouver office is helping a client with a post-final order. Some common final orders that need to be modified or enforced are a Final Parenting Plan, Final Child Support Order, or Final Divorce Order.

Business Succession Plan

Business succession planning is a crucial part of estate planning, ensuring smooth ownership and leadership transitions, protecting business value, minimizing disputes and taxes, and securing stakeholder confidence. Our services include business assessment, customized strategies, legal documentation, tax minimization, contingency planning, stakeholder communication, and regular updates. Integrating succession planning into your estate plan secures your business’s future and preserves your legacy.

I can’t recommend this law firm highly enough. I have met each of the team, and have found them to not only be compassionate, but extremely detail-oriented, and very capable and thorough when it comes to communication. You can tell they are extremely passionate about what they do — what a great team.

They definitely earn an easy recommendation from me.

– Bo Clark

Very knowledgeable on all aspect of estate planning for Washington residents. Provided great recommendations to suit my needs. I would recommend anyone to Marissa Bartolucci!

anonymous Client

Estate Planning Law Questions

Do I need a Will?

A Last Will and Testament is an important legal document that outlines your wishes regarding the distribution of your assets, and care of your minor children, after your death. If you die without a will, the state’s default rules govern who will act as personal representative (executor) of your estate, and who will receive your probate assets; the state’s rules may not reflect your wishes. A will is especially important for people with minor children, because it will nominate a guardian for the minor child and allow you to control the distribution of assets to the minor so that they receive their inheritance when they are old enough to make wise financial decisions and manage their own money responsibly. Additionally, having a will can save some expenses of administration and can reduce the possibility of disagreements among beneficiaries of the estate.

Do I need a Trust?

There are many different types of trusts one might create; when it comes to estate planning options the most common type of trust is a revocable living trust. A living trust is a legal document that places your assets into a trust during your lifetime (for your benefit) and directs the distribution of trust assets to your beneficiaries upon your death. The main function of this trust is to avoid probate, which is a public, court supervised administration of an estate. If you die with or without a will, your estate may have to go through probate before probate assets can be distributed to your beneficiaries. Setting up and properly funding a living trust avoids probate, which has the potential of easing the burden and cost of administration, while allowing details of your assets and beneficiaries to remain private. Note, an estate plan based around a trust is generally more expensive than a will-based plan and takes more work to establish and maintain.

Will versus Trust: Which one is better?

To determine whether a will or a trust is best for you, it is necessary to consider your individual circumstances, goals, and preferences. Both documents are valuable estate planning tools, but each comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. Many individuals use both a will and a trust as part of a comprehensive estate plan. It is best to consult an experienced estate planning attorney to determine the best approach for your particular situation.

Does my estate have to pay estate taxes when I die?

In Washington, estates valued at over approximately $2.2 million are subject to estate tax. In Oregon, estates valued at over $1 million are subject to estate tax. Generally, with married couples, there is no estate tax owing at the death of the first spouse; assets can transfer to the surviving spouse without triggering an estate tax. However, at the death of the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse’s entire estate, including inherited assets, is subject to an estate tax. Estate tax can be reduced, and potentially avoided, with proper estate planning.

How often should I review my estate plan to ensure it is up to date with changes in the law?

Washington State laws, and federal tax laws, can change often. At Navigate Law Group, we recommend setting a schedule to review your estate plan periodically, such as every one to three years. It is important to review not only your estate planning documents, such as your trust, will, powers of attorney and health care directive, but also your beneficiary designations on your financial accounts and life insurance policies to ensure these align with your overall plan.

Additionally, your estate plan should be reviewed any time there is a significant life event, such as a marriage, divorce, birth or adoption of a child or grandchild, death of a beneficiary or representative named in your documents, major change in your financial situation, or a move to a different state. By staying proactive and regularly reviewing your estate plan, you can ensure that it continues to reflect your wishes and provides for your loved ones in accordance with your intentions.

What is a Durable Power of Attorney and how can I choose the right person for my financial and medical decisions?

A power of attorney is a powerful legal document that authorizes an individual of your choosing to act in your place should you be unable to manage your financial and medical matters on your own. A “durable” power of attorney remains in effect if you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself due to disability/incapacity. If you do not have a power of attorney in place and you become incapacitated, the alternative to a power of attorney is a court appointed conservator/guardian; both conservatorships and guardianships can be expensive and time-consuming. The powers you grant to this individual, also referred to as your agent or attorney-in-fact, can be as broad or as limited as you want, but regardless of which powers you grant, it is important to name an individual that you trust. People will often designate their spouses, children, or other close family members and friends. If you do not have a friend or family member to designate, you may want to consider naming a professional. Your agent/attorney-in-fact has a fiduciary duty to act in your best interests and to make decisions that are consistent with your wishes and values. They must manage your affairs responsibly and maintain accurate records of their actions taken on your behalf.

What is a Health Care Directive and what should I consider when creating one to communicate my end-of-life health care preferences?

A health care directive, also referred to as a Living Will or Advance Directive, is a legal document that allows you to specify your preferences for medical treatment and provides guidance to your health care providers and loved ones about what type of medical interventions you want or do not want in the event you have a terminal condition or are in an irreversible coma. In preparing a health care directive, it is important to consider the following:

  1. Medical Preferences – Consider specific medical treatments you would want or not want under various circumstances. These treatments may include interventions such as CPR/resuscitation efforts, artificial nutrition and hydration, pain management, and palliative care.
  2. Personal Beliefs and Values – Think about your personal values, beliefs, and preferences regarding medical treatment and end-of-life care. This may include considering your religious and spiritual perspectives on issues such as life, death, and medical care; your cultural background and beliefs; and your personal preferences, priorities, and life goals. Environmental and social factors may also affect your attitude towards medical treatment.
  3. Quality of Life – consider what level of quality of life is acceptable to you, and under what circumstances you would want to prioritize comfort care or hospice care over more aggressive medical interventions.

Although it is unpleasant to think about, having a directive can remove some of the uncertainty and guilt that people can feel when they have to make important decisions on someone else’s behalf, and will ensure your wishes are honored and respected.

Why is it important for your business to have a succession plan, and what critical steps are involved in creating a comprehensive succession plan for my company?

Businesses often delay succession planning for a variety of reasons; however, it is one of the most important considerations for the short-term and long-term success of a company. Moreover, a closely held family business may be one of the most important assets to consider in your estate plan, so ensuring the success of the business in the future may directly impact your beneficiaries, regardless of whether they are directly involved in company decisions. Steps in creating a succession plan include:

  1. Goals and Objectives – clarify your goals and objectives for your succession plan. Determine what you hope to achieve through succession planning, such as continuity of business operations, maximizing value for stakeholders, continuing the legacy of the business, and providing for retirement/exit strategies.
  2. Consider Succession Candidates – assess potential candidates (i.e. key employees, family members) for continuing the business. Consider leadership qualities, skills, experience, and “fit” with the company culture. Once you have these candidates in mind, develop a plan to mentor them and provide opportunities for professional development.
  3. Create the Plan – clearly outline the process for transitioning ownership and leadership within the company, while maintaining the flexibility that all companies need in order to pivot through various obstacles. Include timelines, roles and responsibilities, and steps for conflict resolution. Identify which documents require updates and company approvals, such as your estate plan, company operating agreement, shareholder agreement, or other business organizational documents. Work with legal and financial advisors to address other important considerations, such as drafting/updating buy-sell agreements, employment contracts, etc.
  4. Create a Flexible Contingency Plan – plan for unexpected events or circumstances that may impact the succession process. Identify back-up succession candidates and alternative strategies to ensure continuity of operations.
  5. Document – document your plans in writing and ensure relevant parties have access to the plan and understand their roles and responsibilities. For updates to business documents, including transfers of shares or membership units, be sure to document the consent of those who must authorize the transfers. Keep the plan updated and review periodically to ensure it remains relevant and effective.

Proper planning provides stability for the business owners and its employees and provides comfort for those working with the business that the business is in a good position moving forward.

Our Estate Planning Attorneys

 

Dainen N. Penta

Dainen N. Penta

Senior Attorney

 Josi R. Howard

Josi R. Howard

Senior Attorney

Estate Planning | Estate & Trust Administration

James C. Howe

James C. Howe

Retired

​Estate Planning | Estate & Trust Administration | Business Law | ​Real Estate

Fair, knowledgeable, & pleasant. This firm can be trusted. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with them in the future if I had a need. Give them consideration.

– Brooke Knight

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