About Us

How do I decide with whom to set up an appointment?

You can speak with one of our friendly Client Relations Specialists in your area.

How is SK&H involved in the community?

SK&H prides itself on community involvement. See the numerous efforts.

What area of law does SK&H practice?

SK&H practices Family Law and Estate Planning.

What areas does your law firm serve?

SK&H serves the areas of Bend, Portland, Lapine, Prineville, Redmond, Sunriver, Sisters, all of SW Washington and the coast.

What efforts does SK&H make to be green?

SK&H makes environmental stewardship a priority; from responsible food purchasing for our kitchen to donating used building materials, our offices take steps to lessen the impact that we have on our environment.

What’s the first step in the process?

The first step in the process is to contact SK&H and set up a consultation.


Child Matters

Can I stop allowing parenting time if the other parent stops paying child support?

No. You must give the other parent the parenting time ordered even if child support is not being paid.

Can I stop paying child support if the other parent won't let me visit my child?

No. You can go to Court and ask to end the child support order until you receive your parenting time, but you cannot end payments without the Court's permission. The Court does not like to stop child support payments and it will allow support to be stopped only if there is proof that you have had very serious problems obtaining your parenting time.

Can the child support order include insurance coverage?

A parent may be ordered to pay for the children's health insurance if it is available through work, a union, or a group. The cost of the insurance coverage may increase or decrease the child support payment, depending on which parent is providing the insurance.

Could I get parenting time with my step-child?

Blended families are common today as new spouses often bring one or more children into a marriage, merging two families. Sometimes, the new step-parent becomes the mother- or father-figure for a child, or may be the only mother or father the child has ever known. What happens to these relationships after a divorce? Does the divorce mean a severance of the relationship between a child and step-parent as well?

The Court of Appeals addressed this issue last year in the case of Van Driesche. In this case, the stepfather sought visitation with the mother’s child, age 4. Stepfather had been the only father the child had known and mother had encouraged a parent-child relationship. The trial court awarded stepfather parenting time, citing the parent-child relationship between step-father and the child. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s decision and denied the stepfather visitation, citing the mother’s right under the U.S. Constitution to make decisions regarding the associations of her child, with the absence of evidence that the child could be harmed by the mother's decision. At trial, the stepfather failed to provide evidence, other than his opinion, that the child would be harmed if visitation was not allowed. Without evidence of harm, and in light of evidence showing that the mother and the stepfather at times had a violent relationship, the Court of Appeals found that visitation by the stepfather was not in the best interest of the child.

This does not mean that no step-parent will ever be awarded visitation. Upon showing that the step-parent and child have a parent-child relationship, and that the child would be subject to a serious risk of harm (emotional or otherwise) if the relationship was not continued, the court may order appropriate visitation to the step-parent. If you are in this situation, you should discuss the specific facts of your case in detail with your attorney.

Do I have to make my children go on visits if they don't want to go?

Yes, the children need to go on visits that a Court has ordered, even if they don't want to go. You should try to find out why the children do not want to visit the other parent and work out any problems together or through counseling. Only in rare cases does the Court limit time spent with the other parent.

Do I stop paying child support once my child turns 18?

Children are eligible for child support until they reach the age of 21, but special criteria apply for the continuance of child support between the ages of 18 and 21. For child support to be continued during that time period, the child must qualify as a “child attending school.”

According to Oregon law, a “child attending school” is one between ages 18 and 21 who regularly attends school, community college, college or university, or regularly attends a course of professional or technical training designed to fit the child for gainful employment. The child must be enrolled in at least one-half the normal course load to be considered a child attending school, and must maintain a “C” average or better.

Additionally, once a child qualifies as a “child attending school,” child support must be paid directly to the child unless the court orders the money to be distributed otherwise. The child may use the child support at his or her discretion. This means that the child is not required to use the money to pay for tuition, books and supplies, but rather can use the money however he or she best judges that it should be spent.

Both parents should remain actively involved in their child’s education to ensure that child support is being used optimally for the child’s advancement. Parents should advise their child that he or she only qualifies as a “child attending school” if the above criteria are met. Continued receipt of child support will provide added incentive for children to excel academically, and an opportunity to learn to manage finances wisely.

Do support payments end with retirement?

When a person paying support retires, the obligation of support does not automatically end. However, depending on the financial circumstances of the parties, a court may decide to terminate or reduce support based upon the good-faith retirement of the paying party. Major factors in deciding whether support should be modified are whether the retiring person's ability to pay support has changed and whether the needs of the receiving party has changed. If by retiring, the paying party’s income significantly decreases, a reduction or termination of support may be appropriate. If the party receiving support is eligible to receive benefits, the court will examine whether those benefits replace the need for support.

In order to be eligible for a support modification, the retiring party must retire in good-faith. This means that the person retiring cannot do so for the purpose of avoiding his or her support obligation. A court may examine the circumstances of the retirement, including: age, whether the retirement was voluntary or involuntary, work histories, and the financial resources at the time of retirement. A court would probably find that the retirement of a 63-year-old vice-president of marketing was in good-faith, but would more carefully scrutinize the retirement of a 44-year-old computer programmer. A retirement must make sense under the circumstances.

The most important consideration is how the retirement affects the parties financially. If retirement does not create a significant change in the ability of the retiring party to pay, or if there is no change in need for the receiving party, the paying party may have to pay support out of his or her retirement benefits. If you or a previous spouse are in this situation or will be in the near future, you should discuss the impact of retirement with your attorney.

How are taxes affected by child support obligations?

Child support payments are not treated as income to the party receiving them, nor are they treated as an income deduction to the party making them.

How does third-party visitation work?

The burden is fairly substantial for a third-party to be awarded visitation or custody. The court is generally hesitant to intrude on the rights of a parent to make decisions about their child's upbringing unless the parent is failing to meet the child's needs.

If the biological parents are failing to meet the child's needs, someone who has a parent/child-like relationship with a child may be granted custody or visitation. This happens most often when a third-party, such as a grandparent, has provided a child with housing, food, education, emotional support, and discipline for a period of time immediately preceding the initiation of the divorce.

Also, the court may allow those who have an ongoing personal relationship with a child to be awarded visitation or contact rights if it is in the child’s best interest. Extended family members more commonly have an ongoing personal relationship, rather than a parent/child relationship, with a child.

How is the amount of child support decided?

The State of Oregon uses a formula (often referred to as "child support guidelines") to determine the amount of child support awarded in each case. The guidelines take into account many factors, such as the income of each parent, other children the parents have to support, and work-related day care costs for the children.

How long does the child support have to be paid?

In Oregon, a parent usually must pay child support until the child is eighteen years old. If the child is going to school or job training at least half time and maintains at least a 'C' average, the child support can continue to age 21. If the child is physically or mentally handicapped, child support may be extended indefinitely. Child support can end prior to age 18 if the child gets married, joins the military, or becomes legally emancipated.

How will the court determine the amount of parenting time the non-custodial parent will receive?

Each case is unique and the amount of parenting time ordered depends on facts such as the age of the children, time and scheduling requirements (based on the school year, for example) and the distance between the parents' households.

Parenting time can be divided in a variety of different ways; A parenting plan may provide for visitation on specified days, weekends, holidays, summer and winter vacations, or another arrangement appropriate under the circumstances.

Parenting time may be limited in cases involving restraining orders. Most counties in Oregon have proposed visitation schedules which they regularly follow. These may be obtained through you at or the court house.

If I have legal custody can I move out of Oregon with my children?

The Court may include a provision in the custody/parenting time order requiring that neither parent may move more than sixty miles without giving reasonable notice to the other parent and to the Court. However, the court or your spouse may agree that you can move.

If my spouse and I are separated, can I get child support?

Yes. Child support may be requested and awarded as part of a Judgment of Legal Separation.

What gets decided in a divorce?

Once the divorce is granted, a Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage is signed by a judge. This Judgment will usually include: the date the marriage ends; awards of spousal support; custody of the children; parenting time schedule; which party is responsible for child support, and the amount; which party shall provide health insurance for the children; and how the assets and liabilities are divided.

What happens if child support is not paid?

In Oregon, any occupational or professional license, as well as seasonal hunting and fishing permits, may be suspended if you are at least three months behind, and owe at least $2,500 in back support. This means that your commercial driver’s license, your general driver’s license, a license to practice law or medicine, or even a liquor license could be at stake for suspension.

The local district attorney’s office can help with child support enforcement. Not only can they help collect child support, they can also move for an administrative modification of support. While the district attorney’s office can be helpful, it is important to remember they do not represent you or your spouse. You may still wish to consult with an attorney to receive advice on your particular situation.

What happens when one parent moves away?

It is increasingly common to see divorced parents who are living some distance apart. Oregon does not place many legal restrictions on custodial parents moving with the children. As a result, the custodial parent may move hundreds or even thousands of miles away. This distance may cause great difficulty in effectuating healthy parenting time. It is important to recognize that these problems are not necessarily legal. Some common practical problems include an inability to facilitate transportation due to financial strain or a lack of work schedule flexibility. The age of the children can also create distance-parenting problems. Younger children tend to benefit by frequency rather than duration of parenting time. Older children are often hesitant to miss planned activities in their home towns in exchange for a visit with their parent.

Many parents have difficulty accepting the solutions to these practicality problems. A good example is the parent who asks for every other weekend when they are living 300 or more miles away. The best solution is usually found in school schedules, which create extended weekends, holidays, and summer vacations. The non-custodial parent may find that their children's school schedules create windows for visitation opportunities.

Finding solutions to distance-parenting problems requires sacrifice by both parents. Both need to find motivation in the realization that the transportation burdens are primarily bore by the children, whose only desire is to be with their moms and dads.

What if my spouse and I can't agree on custody of our children?

If the parents are unable to come to an agreement regarding custody to one or the other parent and parenting time to the other, the Court will make a custody award as part of the divorce. The Court's decision will be based upon the "best interests" of the child. This process may involve mediation or a custody and parenting time evaluation.

What is a legal separation?

A legal separation, either temporary or for an unlimited time, may be granted when the differences between the parties have caused a temporary breakdown of the marriage. Virtually all issues that could arise in a divorce proceeding could also arise in a separation proceeding. In addition, the costs, fees and procedures are usually the same as in a dissolution case. Unlike a divorce, a legal separation does not terminate the marriage, and additional divorce proceedings are required if the couple decides to end the marriage.

What type of custody arrangements are possible?

The court will award custody to the mother or father. Only if both parents agree can the court order joint custody. Joint custody does not necessarily mean a 50/50 split of time with the children. Both parents will cooperate in making decisions regarding the children's residence, religion, schooling, medical/dental care, etc.

A parent who does not have "physical" custody of a child is entitled to reasonable parenting time (visitation) with the child and rights. These rights allow the following authority (ORS §107.154):

1. To inspect and receive school records and to consult with school staff concerning the child's welfare and education.

2. To inspect and receive governmental agency and law enforcement records concerning the child to the same extent as the custodial parent.

3. To consult with any person who may provide care or treatment for the child and to inspect and receive the child's medical, dental and psychological records to the same extent as the custodial parent.

4. To authorize emergency medical, dental, psychological, psychiatric or other health care for the child if the custodial parent is, for practical purposes, unavailable.

5. To apply to be the child's conservator, guardian ad litem or both.

Who must pay the child's health care cost that are not covered by insurance?

The parent with custody must pay the "out-of-pocket" costs unless the child support order states these costs are to be shared or paid by the other parent. The child support guidelines anticipate that the custodial parent will pay the first $250.00 of unreimbursed medical expenses.

Who receives parenting time?

The parent who does not have physical custody will have scheduled parenting time with the children, except in unusual situations.

Who will be required to pay child support?

Both parents have a legal duty to support the children. The Court can require one or both parents to contribute to the support of the children. Using the guidelines established by the State of Oregon, the formula will consider the available resources and primarily incomes of both parents.

Who will get custody of the children?

In a dissolution of marriage proceeding involving children, the main concern of a judge is the best interest and welfare of the children. The property rights and the welfare of adults involved are secondary. The following factors, among others, influence the judge's decision on custody (ORS §107.137):

1. The emotional ties between the child and other family members.

2. The interest of the parties in and attitude toward the child.

3. The desirability of continuing an existing relationship.

4. The abuse of one parent by the other.

5. The preference for the primary care giver of the child, if the care giver is deemed fit by the court.

6. The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child.

Oregon law does not discriminate between mothers and fathers when determining custody.

Child Support
Can I stop allowing parenting time if the other parent stops paying child support?

No. You must give the other parent the parenting time ordered even if child support is not being paid.

Can I stop paying child support if the other parent won't let me visit my child?

No. You can go to Court and ask to end the child support order until you receive your parenting time, but you cannot end payments without the Court's permission. The Court does not like to stop child support payments and it will allow support to be stopped only if there is proof that you have had very serious problems obtaining your parenting time.

Can the child support order include insurance coverage?

A parent may be ordered to pay for the children's health insurance if it is available through work, a union, or a group. The cost of the insurance coverage may increase or decrease the child support payment, depending on which parent is providing the insurance.

Do I stop paying child support once my child turns 18?

Children are eligible for child support until they reach the age of 21, but special criteria apply for the continuance of child support between the ages of 18 and 21. For child support to be continued during that time period, the child must qualify as a “child attending school.”

According to Oregon law, a “child attending school” is one between ages 18 and 21 who regularly attends school, community college, college or university, or regularly attends a course of professional or technical training designed to fit the child for gainful employment. The child must be enrolled in at least one-half the normal course load to be considered a child attending school, and must maintain a “C” average or better.

Additionally, once a child qualifies as a “child attending school,” child support must be paid directly to the child unless the court orders the money to be distributed otherwise. The child may use the child support at his or her discretion. This means that the child is not required to use the money to pay for tuition, books and supplies, but rather can use the money however he or she best judges that it should be spent.

Both parents should remain actively involved in their child’s education to ensure that child support is being used optimally for the child’s advancement. Parents should advise their child that he or she only qualifies as a “child attending school” if the above criteria are met. Continued receipt of child support will provide added incentive for children to excel academically, and an opportunity to learn to manage finances wisely.

Do support payments end with retirement?

When a person paying support retires, the obligation of support does not automatically end. However, depending on the financial circumstances of the parties, a court may decide to terminate or reduce support based upon the good-faith retirement of the paying party. Major factors in deciding whether support should be modified are whether the retiring person's ability to pay support has changed and whether the needs of the receiving party has changed. If by retiring, the paying party’s income significantly decreases, a reduction or termination of support may be appropriate. If the party receiving support is eligible to receive benefits, the court will examine whether those benefits replace the need for support.

In order to be eligible for a support modification, the retiring party must retire in good-faith. This means that the person retiring cannot do so for the purpose of avoiding his or her support obligation. A court may examine the circumstances of the retirement, including: age, whether the retirement was voluntary or involuntary, work histories, and the financial resources at the time of retirement. A court would probably find that the retirement of a 63-year-old vice-president of marketing was in good-faith, but would more carefully scrutinize the retirement of a 44-year-old computer programmer. A retirement must make sense under the circumstances.

The most important consideration is how the retirement affects the parties financially. If retirement does not create a significant change in the ability of the retiring party to pay, or if there is no change in need for the receiving party, the paying party may have to pay support out of his or her retirement benefits. If you or a previous spouse are in this situation or will be in the near future, you should discuss the impact of retirement with your attorney.

How are taxes affected by child support obligations?

Child support payments are not treated as income to the party receiving them, nor are they treated as an income deduction to the party making them.

How does third-party visitation work?

The burden is fairly substantial for a third-party to be awarded visitation or custody. The court is generally hesitant to intrude on the rights of a parent to make decisions about their child's upbringing unless the parent is failing to meet the child's needs.

If the biological parents are failing to meet the child's needs, someone who has a parent/child-like relationship with a child may be granted custody or visitation. This happens most often when a third-party, such as a grandparent, has provided a child with housing, food, education, emotional support, and discipline for a period of time immediately preceding the initiation of the divorce.

Also, the court may allow those who have an ongoing personal relationship with a child to be awarded visitation or contact rights if it is in the child’s best interest. Extended family members more commonly have an ongoing personal relationship, rather than a parent/child relationship, with a child.

How is the amount of child support decided?

The State of Oregon uses a formula (often referred to as "child support guidelines") to determine the amount of child support awarded in each case. The guidelines take into account many factors, such as the income of each parent, other children the parents have to support, and work-related day care costs for the children.

How long does the child support have to be paid?

In Oregon, a parent usually must pay child support until the child is eighteen years old. If the child is going to school or job training at least half time and maintains at least a 'C' average, the child support can continue to age 21. If the child is physically or mentally handicapped, child support may be extended indefinitely. Child support can end prior to age 18 if the child gets married, joins the military, or becomes legally emancipated.

What gets decided in a divorce?

Once the divorce is granted, a Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage is signed by a judge. This Judgment will usually include: the date the marriage ends; awards of spousal support; custody of the children; parenting time schedule; which party is responsible for child support, and the amount; which party shall provide health insurance for the children; and how the assets and liabilities are divided.

What happens if child support is not paid?

In Oregon, any occupational or professional license, as well as seasonal hunting and fishing permits, may be suspended if you are at least three months behind, and owe at least $2,500 in back support. This means that your commercial driver’s license, your general driver’s license, a license to practice law or medicine, or even a liquor license could be at stake for suspension.

The local district attorney’s office can help with child support enforcement. Not only can they help collect child support, they can also move for an administrative modification of support. While the district attorney’s office can be helpful, it is important to remember they do not represent you or your spouse. You may still wish to consult with an attorney to receive advice on your particular situation.

What happens when one parent moves away?

It is increasingly common to see divorced parents who are living some distance apart. Oregon does not place many legal restrictions on custodial parents moving with the children. As a result, the custodial parent may move hundreds or even thousands of miles away. This distance may cause great difficulty in effectuating healthy parenting time. It is important to recognize that these problems are not necessarily legal. Some common practical problems include an inability to facilitate transportation due to financial strain or a lack of work schedule flexibility. The age of the children can also create distance-parenting problems. Younger children tend to benefit by frequency rather than duration of parenting time. Older children are often hesitant to miss planned activities in their home towns in exchange for a visit with their parent.

Many parents have difficulty accepting the solutions to these practicality problems. A good example is the parent who asks for every other weekend when they are living 300 or more miles away. The best solution is usually found in school schedules, which create extended weekends, holidays, and summer vacations. The non-custodial parent may find that their children's school schedules create windows for visitation opportunities.

Finding solutions to distance-parenting problems requires sacrifice by both parents. Both need to find motivation in the realization that the transportation burdens are primarily bore by the children, whose only desire is to be with their moms and dads.

Who must pay the child's health care cost that are not covered by insurance?

The parent with custody must pay the "out-of-pocket" costs unless the child support order states these costs are to be shared or paid by the other parent. The child support guidelines anticipate that the custodial parent will pay the first $250.00 of unreimbursed medical expenses.

Who will be required to pay child support?

Both parents have a legal duty to support the children. The Court can require one or both parents to contribute to the support of the children. Using the guidelines established by the State of Oregon, the formula will consider the available resources and primarily incomes of both parents.

Custody
Can I stop allowing parenting time if the other parent stops paying child support?

No. You must give the other parent the parenting time ordered even if child support is not being paid.

Can I stop paying child support if the other parent won't let me visit my child?

No. You can go to Court and ask to end the child support order until you receive your parenting time, but you cannot end payments without the Court's permission. The Court does not like to stop child support payments and it will allow support to be stopped only if there is proof that you have had very serious problems obtaining your parenting time.

Could I get parenting time with my step-child?

Blended families are common today as new spouses often bring one or more children into a marriage, merging two families. Sometimes, the new step-parent becomes the mother- or father-figure for a child, or may be the only mother or father the child has ever known. What happens to these relationships after a divorce? Does the divorce mean a severance of the relationship between a child and step-parent as well?

The Court of Appeals addressed this issue last year in the case of Van Driesche. In this case, the stepfather sought visitation with the mother’s child, age 4. Stepfather had been the only father the child had known and mother had encouraged a parent-child relationship. The trial court awarded stepfather parenting time, citing the parent-child relationship between step-father and the child. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s decision and denied the stepfather visitation, citing the mother’s right under the U.S. Constitution to make decisions regarding the associations of her child, with the absence of evidence that the child could be harmed by the mother's decision. At trial, the stepfather failed to provide evidence, other than his opinion, that the child would be harmed if visitation was not allowed. Without evidence of harm, and in light of evidence showing that the mother and the stepfather at times had a violent relationship, the Court of Appeals found that visitation by the stepfather was not in the best interest of the child.

This does not mean that no step-parent will ever be awarded visitation. Upon showing that the step-parent and child have a parent-child relationship, and that the child would be subject to a serious risk of harm (emotional or otherwise) if the relationship was not continued, the court may order appropriate visitation to the step-parent. If you are in this situation, you should discuss the specific facts of your case in detail with your attorney.

Do I have to make my children go on visits if they don't want to go?

Yes, the children need to go on visits that a Court has ordered, even if they don't want to go. You should try to find out why the children do not want to visit the other parent and work out any problems together or through counseling. Only in rare cases does the Court limit time spent with the other parent.

How does third-party visitation work?

The burden is fairly substantial for a third-party to be awarded visitation or custody. The court is generally hesitant to intrude on the rights of a parent to make decisions about their child's upbringing unless the parent is failing to meet the child's needs.

If the biological parents are failing to meet the child's needs, someone who has a parent/child-like relationship with a child may be granted custody or visitation. This happens most often when a third-party, such as a grandparent, has provided a child with housing, food, education, emotional support, and discipline for a period of time immediately preceding the initiation of the divorce.

Also, the court may allow those who have an ongoing personal relationship with a child to be awarded visitation or contact rights if it is in the child’s best interest. Extended family members more commonly have an ongoing personal relationship, rather than a parent/child relationship, with a child.

How will the court determine the amount of parenting time the non-custodial parent will receive?

Each case is unique and the amount of parenting time ordered depends on facts such as the age of the children, time and scheduling requirements (based on the school year, for example) and the distance between the parents' households.

Parenting time can be divided in a variety of different ways; A parenting plan may provide for visitation on specified days, weekends, holidays, summer and winter vacations, or another arrangement appropriate under the circumstances.

Parenting time may be limited in cases involving restraining orders. Most counties in Oregon have proposed visitation schedules which they regularly follow. These may be obtained through you at or the court house.

If I have legal custody can I move out of Oregon with my children?

The Court may include a provision in the custody/parenting time order requiring that neither parent may move more than sixty miles without giving reasonable notice to the other parent and to the Court. However, the court or your spouse may agree that you can move.

What gets decided in a divorce?

Once the divorce is granted, a Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage is signed by a judge. This Judgment will usually include: the date the marriage ends; awards of spousal support; custody of the children; parenting time schedule; which party is responsible for child support, and the amount; which party shall provide health insurance for the children; and how the assets and liabilities are divided.

What happens when one parent moves away?

It is increasingly common to see divorced parents who are living some distance apart. Oregon does not place many legal restrictions on custodial parents moving with the children. As a result, the custodial parent may move hundreds or even thousands of miles away. This distance may cause great difficulty in effectuating healthy parenting time. It is important to recognize that these problems are not necessarily legal. Some common practical problems include an inability to facilitate transportation due to financial strain or a lack of work schedule flexibility. The age of the children can also create distance-parenting problems. Younger children tend to benefit by frequency rather than duration of parenting time. Older children are often hesitant to miss planned activities in their home towns in exchange for a visit with their parent.

Many parents have difficulty accepting the solutions to these practicality problems. A good example is the parent who asks for every other weekend when they are living 300 or more miles away. The best solution is usually found in school schedules, which create extended weekends, holidays, and summer vacations. The non-custodial parent may find that their children's school schedules create windows for visitation opportunities.

Finding solutions to distance-parenting problems requires sacrifice by both parents. Both need to find motivation in the realization that the transportation burdens are primarily bore by the children, whose only desire is to be with their moms and dads.

What if my spouse and I can't agree on custody of our children?

If the parents are unable to come to an agreement regarding custody to one or the other parent and parenting time to the other, the Court will make a custody award as part of the divorce. The Court's decision will be based upon the "best interests" of the child. This process may involve mediation or a custody and parenting time evaluation.

What type of custody arrangements are possible?

The court will award custody to the mother or father. Only if both parents agree can the court order joint custody. Joint custody does not necessarily mean a 50/50 split of time with the children. Both parents will cooperate in making decisions regarding the children's residence, religion, schooling, medical/dental care, etc.

A parent who does not have "physical" custody of a child is entitled to reasonable parenting time (visitation) with the child and rights. These rights allow the following authority (ORS §107.154):

1. To inspect and receive school records and to consult with school staff concerning the child's welfare and education.

2. To inspect and receive governmental agency and law enforcement records concerning the child to the same extent as the custodial parent.

3. To consult with any person who may provide care or treatment for the child and to inspect and receive the child's medical, dental and psychological records to the same extent as the custodial parent.

4. To authorize emergency medical, dental, psychological, psychiatric or other health care for the child if the custodial parent is, for practical purposes, unavailable.

5. To apply to be the child's conservator, guardian ad litem or both.

Who must pay the child's health care cost that are not covered by insurance?

The parent with custody must pay the "out-of-pocket" costs unless the child support order states these costs are to be shared or paid by the other parent. The child support guidelines anticipate that the custodial parent will pay the first $250.00 of unreimbursed medical expenses.

Who receives parenting time?

The parent who does not have physical custody will have scheduled parenting time with the children, except in unusual situations.

Who will get custody of the children?

In a dissolution of marriage proceeding involving children, the main concern of a judge is the best interest and welfare of the children. The property rights and the welfare of adults involved are secondary. The following factors, among others, influence the judge's decision on custody (ORS §107.137):

1. The emotional ties between the child and other family members.

2. The interest of the parties in and attitude toward the child.

3. The desirability of continuing an existing relationship.

4. The abuse of one parent by the other.

5. The preference for the primary care giver of the child, if the care giver is deemed fit by the court.

6. The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child.

Oregon law does not discriminate between mothers and fathers when determining custody.


Divorce and Separation

After the divorce, who is responsible for debts both spouses took on during the marriage? What about debts signed for in only one spouse's name?

The divorce judgment will indicate who is responsible for each debt. Joint debts may be divided equitably as part of the property division, or may be assigned to one spouse or the other.

Debts incurred by one spouse alone are treated as their separate responsibility, except where the debts were incurred for "family expenses." These include things such as medical bills, household goods, educational expenses, etc. The rationale behind this rule is that the entire family benefitted (not only the debtor spouse) and should share in the responsibility for the debt.

Debts incurred after physical separation (i.e. after a party moves out) are the responsibility of the person who incurred them, unless the debts are related to the parties' children. In these situations, a court may extend liability to both spouses.

But if the court does not have authority over the person to whom the money is owed, i.e. credit card company, the fact the divorce court orders your spouse to pay a debt which also is your name does not protect you in case of bankruptcy or if your spouse refuses to pay or charges more debt. The best course is to close all unsecured joint accounts.

Can a wife have her former name restored?

Upon request, a judge will grant one spouse's request for a name change. However, a spouse cannot force the other spouse to stop using his or her last name just because the parties have been or will be divorced.

Can I stop allowing parenting time if the other parent stops paying child support?

No. You must give the other parent the parenting time ordered even if child support is not being paid.

Can I stop paying child support if the other parent won't let me visit my child?

No. You can go to Court and ask to end the child support order until you receive your parenting time, but you cannot end payments without the Court's permission. The Court does not like to stop child support payments and it will allow support to be stopped only if there is proof that you have had very serious problems obtaining your parenting time.

Can the child support order include insurance coverage?

A parent may be ordered to pay for the children's health insurance if it is available through work, a union, or a group. The cost of the insurance coverage may increase or decrease the child support payment, depending on which parent is providing the insurance.

Do I have to make my children go on visits if they don't want to go?

Yes, the children need to go on visits that a Court has ordered, even if they don't want to go. You should try to find out why the children do not want to visit the other parent and work out any problems together or through counseling. Only in rare cases does the Court limit time spent with the other parent.

Does spousal support automatically end if the receiving spouse remarries?

No, although remarriage is something that a judge can consider if there is a request to modify or terminate the spousal support award.

How are taxes affected by child support obligations?

Child support payments are not treated as income to the party receiving them, nor are they treated as an income deduction to the party making them.

How is the amount of child support decided?

The State of Oregon uses a formula (often referred to as "child support guidelines") to determine the amount of child support awarded in each case. The guidelines take into account many factors, such as the income of each parent, other children the parents have to support, and work-related day care costs for the children.

How long does it take to get a divorce?

This depends on the specifics of the case, most importantly if it is a "contested" or "uncontested" divorce. If your spouse disputes your proposed resolution of the issues (support, asset division, etc.), it is considered contested. If your proposal is acceptable to your spouse, the divorce is considered uncontested. An uncontested divorce can be finalized immediately if the parties agree and the necessary paperwork is completed. In Oregon, a contested divorce typically lasts six to twelve months from the initial filing to the conclusion.

How long does the child support have to be paid?

In Oregon, a parent usually must pay child support until the child is eighteen years old. If the child is going to school or job training at least half time and maintains at least a 'C' average, the child support can continue to age 21. If the child is physically or mentally handicapped, child support may be extended indefinitely. Child support can end prior to age 18 if the child gets married, joins the military, or becomes legally emancipated.

How will spousal support effect my taxes?

The party receiving spousal support treats these payments as regular income for tax purposes. The party making the support payments can deduct these payments from their income taxes since no taxes are assessed against the person paying support on the funds paid as spousal support.

How will the court determine the amount of parenting time the non-custodial parent will receive?

Each case is unique and the amount of parenting time ordered depends on facts such as the age of the children, time and scheduling requirements (based on the school year, for example) and the distance between the parents' households.

Parenting time can be divided in a variety of different ways; A parenting plan may provide for visitation on specified days, weekends, holidays, summer and winter vacations, or another arrangement appropriate under the circumstances.

Parenting time may be limited in cases involving restraining orders. Most counties in Oregon have proposed visitation schedules which they regularly follow. These may be obtained through you at or the court house.

If I didn't get spousal support in my divorce judgement, can I go back to the court and get it later?

No. Spousal support must be ordered in your original divorce decree or the court is powerless to award any spousal support.

If I have legal custody can I move out of Oregon with my children?

The Court may include a provision in the custody/parenting time order requiring that neither parent may move more than sixty miles without giving reasonable notice to the other parent and to the Court. However, the court or your spouse may agree that you can move.

If my spouse and I are separated, can I get child support?

Yes. Child support may be requested and awarded as part of a Judgment of Legal Separation.

What about division of property?

In Oregon, there is a presumption that each spouse contributed equally to the assets of the marriage. This means that, absent evidence to the contrary, each spouse will receive an equal share of the assets. A homemaker's contribution (domestic duties, child care, etc.) will be considered as making both parties equally responsible for the acquisition of assets.

A party may present evidence challenging the presumption of equal contribution by, for example, proving that specific assets were received by only one spouse as a gift or inheritance or without any contribution from the other spouse.

The Court will always attempt to divide the assets to produce a "just and proper" result under the circumstances of the case, considering factors such as:

1. Length of marriage.

2. Amount of property brought into the marriage by each party.

3. Amount of property available for division.

4. Financial needs, prospects, age, and health of both parties and their children.

5. Education, work experience, and income of the parties.

6. The extent of the parties' mixing of assets.

What can I do to prepare information before filing for divorce?

Many people are diligent in assembling asset and income information such as tax returns, titles to real estate, retirement plans and accounts, non-retirement investments, savings information, pay stubs and stock options. However, it is just as important to gather a thorough accounting of financial obligations. For this reason it is a good idea to obtain a credit report early in the process in order thoroughly to address all aspects of settlement.

In addition, when custody and parenting time are at issue, it is helpful to gather and keep information relevant to the care of the child, such as parenting journals or e-mails between the parents.

What gets decided in a divorce?

Once the divorce is granted, a Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage is signed by a judge. This Judgment will usually include: the date the marriage ends; awards of spousal support; custody of the children; parenting time schedule; which party is responsible for child support, and the amount; which party shall provide health insurance for the children; and how the assets and liabilities are divided.

What if my spouse and I can't agree on custody of our children?

If the parents are unable to come to an agreement regarding custody to one or the other parent and parenting time to the other, the Court will make a custody award as part of the divorce. The Court's decision will be based upon the "best interests" of the child. This process may involve mediation or a custody and parenting time evaluation.

What is a legal separation?

A legal separation, either temporary or for an unlimited time, may be granted when the differences between the parties have caused a temporary breakdown of the marriage. Virtually all issues that could arise in a divorce proceeding could also arise in a separation proceeding. In addition, the costs, fees and procedures are usually the same as in a dissolution case. Unlike a divorce, a legal separation does not terminate the marriage, and additional divorce proceedings are required if the couple decides to end the marriage.

What is a property settlement agreement?

A property settlement agreement is a written contract between the parties listing and dividing the marital property and financial obligations. It also may be used in settling custody, child support and spousal support in accordance with the wishes of the parties. A property settlement agreement reached before a trial is subject to a judge's approval.

What is an Estate? Do I have one?

Yes, you have an Estate. Your Estate is basically the property you own.

What is Estate Planning?

Estate Planning is the act of determining what happens to your estate after you're gone. An estate plan can be a simple two page will or an intricate web of multiple trusts.

What is meant by the term no fault divorce?

No fault divorce means that the mere claim that the marriage has irreparably broken down is sufficient to obtain a divorce. A judge generally will not permit or require evidence of specific acts of misconduct or fault in granting a dissolution of marriage; however, such evidence might be considered if child custody is an issue.

What is spousal support?

Spousal support, also known as alimony, is money paid by one spouse to the other. In Oregon, spousal support is classified in three categories:

Transitional support: The judge looks at what support is needed to assist the spouse in re-entering the work force. Funds can be used for education or training.

Compensatory support: The judge determines an amount of support that compensates one spouse for supporting or contributing to the other's education, career, or earning ability.

Spousal maintenance: The judge considers what support is appropriate to keep a standard of living similar to what was enjoyed in the marriage.

A judge may award spousal support based on one or more of these classifications.

What kind of property is divided in a divorce?

Property can include any land or homes, vehicles and boats, bank accounts, investments, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, lawsuit settlements, trusts, and collections. Certain debts are also divided in a divorce. Unless the spouses agree on what is to be divided, the judge will divide all of the property and debt that is included in the marital estate.

What type of custody arrangements are possible?

The court will award custody to the mother or father. Only if both parents agree can the court order joint custody. Joint custody does not necessarily mean a 50/50 split of time with the children. Both parents will cooperate in making decisions regarding the children's residence, religion, schooling, medical/dental care, etc.

A parent who does not have "physical" custody of a child is entitled to reasonable parenting time (visitation) with the child and rights. These rights allow the following authority (ORS §107.154):

1. To inspect and receive school records and to consult with school staff concerning the child's welfare and education.

2. To inspect and receive governmental agency and law enforcement records concerning the child to the same extent as the custodial parent.

3. To consult with any person who may provide care or treatment for the child and to inspect and receive the child's medical, dental and psychological records to the same extent as the custodial parent.

4. To authorize emergency medical, dental, psychological, psychiatric or other health care for the child if the custodial parent is, for practical purposes, unavailable.

5. To apply to be the child's conservator, guardian ad litem or both.

When should you change your estate plan?

After a divorce or marriage. After the birth of children or grandchildren. After a change in financial circumstances. After a change in the code, such as the 1997 Taxpayer Relief Act which changed over 800 sections of code. After a move into a different state.

Who must pay the child's health care cost that are not covered by insurance?

The parent with custody must pay the "out-of-pocket" costs unless the child support order states these costs are to be shared or paid by the other parent. The child support guidelines anticipate that the custodial parent will pay the first $250.00 of unreimbursed medical expenses.

Who receives parenting time?

The parent who does not have physical custody will have scheduled parenting time with the children, except in unusual situations.

Who should have an estate plan, will or trust?

Everyone! There is an unfortunate, widespread misconception that only the wealthy need an Estate Plan. In fact, an Estate Plan is for anyone who wishes to provide for their survivors. If you pass away without a will or other Estate Plan, the laws of the state take over, and these laws may not reflect your wishes or provide for the ones you love.

Who will be required to pay child support?

Both parents have a legal duty to support the children. The Court can require one or both parents to contribute to the support of the children. Using the guidelines established by the State of Oregon, the formula will consider the available resources and primarily incomes of both parents.

Who will get custody of the children?

In a dissolution of marriage proceeding involving children, the main concern of a judge is the best interest and welfare of the children. The property rights and the welfare of adults involved are secondary. The following factors, among others, influence the judge's decision on custody (ORS §107.137):

1. The emotional ties between the child and other family members.

2. The interest of the parties in and attitude toward the child.

3. The desirability of continuing an existing relationship.

4. The abuse of one parent by the other.

5. The preference for the primary care giver of the child, if the care giver is deemed fit by the court.

6. The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child.

Oregon law does not discriminate between mothers and fathers when determining custody.

Will a prenuptial agreement control the terms of settlement?

Prenuptial agreements are usually enforced by Oregon courts, but are subject to a high level of scrutiny. For example, a Court may invalidate a prenuptial agreement if it was signed under duress or coercion, if one of the parties was not given a reasonable time to examine the agreement and seek the advice of an attorney prior to signing, or if one of the parties did not fully disclose all of his/her assets.

Will either party be required to pay spousal support?

Spousal support must be requested in the initial pleadings before a judge will consider awarding it. A judge will consider a variety of factors to determine whether spousal support is appropriate. These factors correspond to the type of spousal support that is ultimately awarded. Some basic factors include the length of the marriage, the parties' earning capacity and financial needs, tax consequences of an award, and the parties' work or educational experience.

Will I have to go through a trial to get a divorce?

Each case is unique, but the majority of divorce cases are resolved out of court. There will be a trial if you and your spouse are unable to reach agreement on all the issues. If the parties reach a partial agreement, a trial will resolve the issues that are still in dispute.

Will I lose my spouse's group health insurance after the divorce?

You can ask to continue your health insurance coverage through your spouse's employer by enrolling in the COBRA plan. This extension period can range from eighteen months to three years, but there are stringent requirements related to the enrollment period and prompt payment of premiums.


Marriage Planning

Will a prenuptial agreement control the terms of settlement?

Prenuptial agreements are usually enforced by Oregon courts, but are subject to a high level of scrutiny. For example, a Court may invalidate a prenuptial agreement if it was signed under duress or coercion, if one of the parties was not given a reasonable time to examine the agreement and seek the advice of an attorney prior to signing, or if one of the parties did not fully disclose all of his/her assets.


Modifications and Post Divorce Issues

After the divorce, who is responsible for debts both spouses took on during the marriage? What about debts signed for in only one spouse's name?

The divorce judgment will indicate who is responsible for each debt. Joint debts may be divided equitably as part of the property division, or may be assigned to one spouse or the other.

Debts incurred by one spouse alone are treated as their separate responsibility, except where the debts were incurred for "family expenses." These include things such as medical bills, household goods, educational expenses, etc. The rationale behind this rule is that the entire family benefitted (not only the debtor spouse) and should share in the responsibility for the debt.

Debts incurred after physical separation (i.e. after a party moves out) are the responsibility of the person who incurred them, unless the debts are related to the parties' children. In these situations, a court may extend liability to both spouses.

But if the court does not have authority over the person to whom the money is owed, i.e. credit card company, the fact the divorce court orders your spouse to pay a debt which also is your name does not protect you in case of bankruptcy or if your spouse refuses to pay or charges more debt. The best course is to close all unsecured joint accounts.

Can a wife have her former name restored?

Upon request, a judge will grant one spouse's request for a name change. However, a spouse cannot force the other spouse to stop using his or her last name just because the parties have been or will be divorced.

Do I have to make my children go on visits if they don't want to go?

Yes, the children need to go on visits that a Court has ordered, even if they don't want to go. You should try to find out why the children do not want to visit the other parent and work out any problems together or through counseling. Only in rare cases does the Court limit time spent with the other parent.

Do support payments end with retirement?

When a person paying support retires, the obligation of support does not automatically end. However, depending on the financial circumstances of the parties, a court may decide to terminate or reduce support based upon the good-faith retirement of the paying party. Major factors in deciding whether support should be modified are whether the retiring person's ability to pay support has changed and whether the needs of the receiving party has changed. If by retiring, the paying party’s income significantly decreases, a reduction or termination of support may be appropriate. If the party receiving support is eligible to receive benefits, the court will examine whether those benefits replace the need for support.

In order to be eligible for a support modification, the retiring party must retire in good-faith. This means that the person retiring cannot do so for the purpose of avoiding his or her support obligation. A court may examine the circumstances of the retirement, including: age, whether the retirement was voluntary or involuntary, work histories, and the financial resources at the time of retirement. A court would probably find that the retirement of a 63-year-old vice-president of marketing was in good-faith, but would more carefully scrutinize the retirement of a 44-year-old computer programmer. A retirement must make sense under the circumstances.

The most important consideration is how the retirement affects the parties financially. If retirement does not create a significant change in the ability of the retiring party to pay, or if there is no change in need for the receiving party, the paying party may have to pay support out of his or her retirement benefits. If you or a previous spouse are in this situation or will be in the near future, you should discuss the impact of retirement with your attorney.

Does spousal support automatically end if the receiving spouse remarries?

No, although remarriage is something that a judge can consider if there is a request to modify or terminate the spousal support award.

How will spousal support effect my taxes?

The party receiving spousal support treats these payments as regular income for tax purposes. The party making the support payments can deduct these payments from their income taxes since no taxes are assessed against the person paying support on the funds paid as spousal support.

If I have legal custody can I move out of Oregon with my children?

The Court may include a provision in the custody/parenting time order requiring that neither parent may move more than sixty miles without giving reasonable notice to the other parent and to the Court. However, the court or your spouse may agree that you can move.

What about division of property?

In Oregon, there is a presumption that each spouse contributed equally to the assets of the marriage. This means that, absent evidence to the contrary, each spouse will receive an equal share of the assets. A homemaker's contribution (domestic duties, child care, etc.) will be considered as making both parties equally responsible for the acquisition of assets.

A party may present evidence challenging the presumption of equal contribution by, for example, proving that specific assets were received by only one spouse as a gift or inheritance or without any contribution from the other spouse.

The Court will always attempt to divide the assets to produce a "just and proper" result under the circumstances of the case, considering factors such as:

1. Length of marriage.

2. Amount of property brought into the marriage by each party.

3. Amount of property available for division.

4. Financial needs, prospects, age, and health of both parties and their children.

5. Education, work experience, and income of the parties.

6. The extent of the parties' mixing of assets.

What gets decided in a divorce?

Once the divorce is granted, a Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage is signed by a judge. This Judgment will usually include: the date the marriage ends; awards of spousal support; custody of the children; parenting time schedule; which party is responsible for child support, and the amount; which party shall provide health insurance for the children; and how the assets and liabilities are divided.

What happens when one parent moves away?

It is increasingly common to see divorced parents who are living some distance apart. Oregon does not place many legal restrictions on custodial parents moving with the children. As a result, the custodial parent may move hundreds or even thousands of miles away. This distance may cause great difficulty in effectuating healthy parenting time. It is important to recognize that these problems are not necessarily legal. Some common practical problems include an inability to facilitate transportation due to financial strain or a lack of work schedule flexibility. The age of the children can also create distance-parenting problems. Younger children tend to benefit by frequency rather than duration of parenting time. Older children are often hesitant to miss planned activities in their home towns in exchange for a visit with their parent.

Many parents have difficulty accepting the solutions to these practicality problems. A good example is the parent who asks for every other weekend when they are living 300 or more miles away. The best solution is usually found in school schedules, which create extended weekends, holidays, and summer vacations. The non-custodial parent may find that their children's school schedules create windows for visitation opportunities.

Finding solutions to distance-parenting problems requires sacrifice by both parents. Both need to find motivation in the realization that the transportation burdens are primarily bore by the children, whose only desire is to be with their moms and dads.

What if my spouse and I can't agree on custody of our children?

If the parents are unable to come to an agreement regarding custody to one or the other parent and parenting time to the other, the Court will make a custody award as part of the divorce. The Court's decision will be based upon the "best interests" of the child. This process may involve mediation or a custody and parenting time evaluation.

What is a property settlement agreement?

A property settlement agreement is a written contract between the parties listing and dividing the marital property and financial obligations. It also may be used in settling custody, child support and spousal support in accordance with the wishes of the parties. A property settlement agreement reached before a trial is subject to a judge's approval.

What is an Estate? Do I have one?

Yes, you have an Estate. Your Estate is basically the property you own.

What is meant by the term no fault divorce?

No fault divorce means that the mere claim that the marriage has irreparably broken down is sufficient to obtain a divorce. A judge generally will not permit or require evidence of specific acts of misconduct or fault in granting a dissolution of marriage; however, such evidence might be considered if child custody is an issue.

What is spousal support?

Spousal support, also known as alimony, is money paid by one spouse to the other. In Oregon, spousal support is classified in three categories:

Transitional support: The judge looks at what support is needed to assist the spouse in re-entering the work force. Funds can be used for education or training.

Compensatory support: The judge determines an amount of support that compensates one spouse for supporting or contributing to the other's education, career, or earning ability.

Spousal maintenance: The judge considers what support is appropriate to keep a standard of living similar to what was enjoyed in the marriage.

A judge may award spousal support based on one or more of these classifications.

What kind of property is divided in a divorce?

Property can include any land or homes, vehicles and boats, bank accounts, investments, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, lawsuit settlements, trusts, and collections. Certain debts are also divided in a divorce. Unless the spouses agree on what is to be divided, the judge will divide all of the property and debt that is included in the marital estate.

What type of custody arrangements are possible?

The court will award custody to the mother or father. Only if both parents agree can the court order joint custody. Joint custody does not necessarily mean a 50/50 split of time with the children. Both parents will cooperate in making decisions regarding the children's residence, religion, schooling, medical/dental care, etc.

A parent who does not have "physical" custody of a child is entitled to reasonable parenting time (visitation) with the child and rights. These rights allow the following authority (ORS §107.154):

1. To inspect and receive school records and to consult with school staff concerning the child's welfare and education.

2. To inspect and receive governmental agency and law enforcement records concerning the child to the same extent as the custodial parent.

3. To consult with any person who may provide care or treatment for the child and to inspect and receive the child's medical, dental and psychological records to the same extent as the custodial parent.

4. To authorize emergency medical, dental, psychological, psychiatric or other health care for the child if the custodial parent is, for practical purposes, unavailable.

5. To apply to be the child's conservator, guardian ad litem or both.

Who will be required to pay child support?

Both parents have a legal duty to support the children. The Court can require one or both parents to contribute to the support of the children. Using the guidelines established by the State of Oregon, the formula will consider the available resources and primarily incomes of both parents.

Will a prenuptial agreement control the terms of settlement?

Prenuptial agreements are usually enforced by Oregon courts, but are subject to a high level of scrutiny. For example, a Court may invalidate a prenuptial agreement if it was signed under duress or coercion, if one of the parties was not given a reasonable time to examine the agreement and seek the advice of an attorney prior to signing, or if one of the parties did not fully disclose all of his/her assets.

Will either party be required to pay spousal support?

Spousal support must be requested in the initial pleadings before a judge will consider awarding it. A judge will consider a variety of factors to determine whether spousal support is appropriate. These factors correspond to the type of spousal support that is ultimately awarded. Some basic factors include the length of the marriage, the parties' earning capacity and financial needs, tax consequences of an award, and the parties' work or educational experience.

Will I lose my spouse's group health insurance after the divorce?

You can ask to continue your health insurance coverage through your spouse's employer by enrolling in the COBRA plan. This extension period can range from eighteen months to three years, but there are stringent requirements related to the enrollment period and prompt payment of premiums.


Estate Planning After Marriage or Divorce

Is it appropriate for me to help my parents with their estate planning?

Sometimes. Understand that the estate planning attorney will not be your attorney, but rather an attorney for your parents. If your parents do not wish to change their plans, you cannot force or improperly influence them to do so. There can be no undue influence to direct how the estate plan should be structured, or the will may likely be invalidated later. This is a worst-case scenario.

Usually, well-intentioned children can significantly help their parents with an estate plan. They can provide transportation to and from estate planning sessions and help to gather necessary documents. Some of the most productive estate planning sessions can be described as family meetings, where the family gets together and honestly talks about where the money is most needed (for example, paying college tuition for children or grandchildren). These meetings can be very productive in determining the goals of the estate plan: do you want a large sum immediately upon death, trusts that pay out over time, or substantial gifting now without leaving much, if anything, in your estate? Please understand that the estate planning advice will be for your parents and their interests, and you will not be allowed to remain present in the office for the full time of the appointment. The attorney and your parents will need to spend some time independently discussing matters to ensure that the results are truly reflective of your parents' wishes.

What is an Estate? Do I have one?

Yes, you have an Estate. Your Estate is basically the property you own.

What is Estate Planning?

Estate Planning is the act of determining what happens to your estate after you're gone. An estate plan can be a simple two page will or an intricate web of multiple trusts.

What should I consider before agreeing to be a guardian or conservator for a friend or family member?

First, consider if there are any bankruptcies and/or criminal charges or convictions that may disqualify you. If there are, you may want to decline to be considered. Next, you should consider if you have the time available to take on such a task, and whether you can get along with the ward’s family well enough to be an information source about his or her health and financial situation. Then, the most important consideration is whether you feel confident in making medical or financial decisions in your own life. If your own health and financial decisions make you feel uncomfortable, there is no reason to believe that you will be better at it for someone else.

What should I consider before agreeing to be a personal representative of a friend or family member’s estate?

First and foremost, you should consider whether or not you will be able to put your personal feelings aside and look out for the beneficiaries’ interests. If there are any conflicts between you and the beneficiaries to the estate, it may be best to decline. Also, ask yourself if you have the time to undertake such a diverse and sometimes complex task, which requires the attention to detail needed to get things approved by the court and the patience needed to deal with the beneficiaries. You may also have to spend time interviewing appraisers, reviewing appraisals once completed, and coordinating visits for the appraiser to access the home or other personal property items of value. Along the same lines, you need to consider whether or not you want to be involved with the sale of real estate, managing an estate sale, distributing family artifacts, and paying the funeral bills. If these are tasks that you could manage, while keeping the beneficiaries' best interests in mind, then you may be the right person for the job.

What should I expect from my estate planning consultation?

During the estate planning consultation, we will review your designation of beneficiaries on everything from your life insurance policy to your retirement plans and 401k/IRAs. It is important to discuss your beneficiary designations to manage expectations about what will happen to that money after your death, including who will manage the money if your beneficiary is still a minor when you pass away. To ensure that the money is spent in a responsible manner, we can assist you in placing age limitations on distributions of funds or including a spendthrift provision in a trust. We can also discuss plans for paying for college for children or grandchildren.

When is it too late to draft a new will or other estate planning document?

To draft a will you must have testamentary capacity, which means an ability to understand what it means to create a will, what property you own, who would naturally be your beneficiaries, and the terms of the document when you sign. You can be elderly and you can be sick, but as long as you have capacity and there is no undue influence placed on you, you can draft a new estate plan.

When is the right time for me to think about estate planning?

You should think about estate planning after any major life changing event: a marriage, divorce, birth of a child, or change in employment. You should also rewrite your estate plan if it has been more than seven years since you last revised your plan. Many people think that, in today’s uncertain financial and tax market, there really isn’t a good reason to see an estate planner. This assumption is just plain wrong. In this down economy, there are substantial tax-planning advantages we can use to our benefit. We can set up a gift of depreciated stock to a younger generation so that the donee’s gains are calculated on the original donor’s share price. (Assuming a purchase at $250 a share, and that the shares are now worth $175 each, the donee will not pay taxes on any gain unless he or she sells the share for over $250.) We could also set up a gift of depreciated real property into a QPRT allowing for the property to be gifted at an extremely discounted basis. If there are substantial assets, we may recommend selling assets to an IDGT that can freeze the assets at today’s value.

When should you change your estate plan?

After a divorce or marriage. After the birth of children or grandchildren. After a change in financial circumstances. After a change in the code, such as the 1997 Taxpayer Relief Act which changed over 800 sections of code. After a move into a different state.

Who should have an estate plan, will or trust?

Everyone! There is an unfortunate, widespread misconception that only the wealthy need an Estate Plan. In fact, an Estate Plan is for anyone who wishes to provide for their survivors. If you pass away without a will or other Estate Plan, the laws of the state take over, and these laws may not reflect your wishes or provide for the ones you love.

Why is it important to use an estate planning professional to draft a will?

Estate planning documents are only as good as the assistance, advice and instruction you receive with them.

For example, if you never address how your assets are titled, your will may not be sufficient to achieve your goals. If you draft a will leaving your spouse half and your child half but 95% of your assets are titled directly to your spouse, then your child will only get half of 5%. The other 95% of the property passes immediately to your spouse upon your death because they are held in joint ownership or your spouse is the named beneficiary on the title. These assets will not pass through your estate in accordance with the terms of your will.

This is only one of many complications that an estate planning professional will help you to anticipate and address.


Estate Planning Resources

When is the right time for me to think about estate planning?

You should think about estate planning after any major life changing event: a marriage, divorce, birth of a child, or change in employment. You should also rewrite your estate plan if it has been more than seven years since you last revised your plan. Many people think that, in today’s uncertain financial and tax market, there really isn’t a good reason to see an estate planner. This assumption is just plain wrong. In this down economy, there are substantial tax-planning advantages we can use to our benefit. We can set up a gift of depreciated stock to a younger generation so that the donee’s gains are calculated on the original donor’s share price. (Assuming a purchase at $250 a share, and that the shares are now worth $175 each, the donee will not pay taxes on any gain unless he or she sells the share for over $250.) We could also set up a gift of depreciated real property into a QPRT allowing for the property to be gifted at an extremely discounted basis. If there are substantial assets, we may recommend selling assets to an IDGT that can freeze the assets at today’s value.


Incapacity Planning

Is it appropriate for me to help my parents with their estate planning?

Sometimes. Understand that the estate planning attorney will not be your attorney, but rather an attorney for your parents. If your parents do not wish to change their plans, you cannot force or improperly influence them to do so. There can be no undue influence to direct how the estate plan should be structured, or the will may likely be invalidated later. This is a worst-case scenario.

Usually, well-intentioned children can significantly help their parents with an estate plan. They can provide transportation to and from estate planning sessions and help to gather necessary documents. Some of the most productive estate planning sessions can be described as family meetings, where the family gets together and honestly talks about where the money is most needed (for example, paying college tuition for children or grandchildren). These meetings can be very productive in determining the goals of the estate plan: do you want a large sum immediately upon death, trusts that pay out over time, or substantial gifting now without leaving much, if anything, in your estate? Please understand that the estate planning advice will be for your parents and their interests, and you will not be allowed to remain present in the office for the full time of the appointment. The attorney and your parents will need to spend some time independently discussing matters to ensure that the results are truly reflective of your parents' wishes.

What should I consider before agreeing to be a guardian or conservator for a friend or family member?

First, consider if there are any bankruptcies and/or criminal charges or convictions that may disqualify you. If there are, you may want to decline to be considered. Next, you should consider if you have the time available to take on such a task, and whether you can get along with the ward’s family well enough to be an information source about his or her health and financial situation. Then, the most important consideration is whether you feel confident in making medical or financial decisions in your own life. If your own health and financial decisions make you feel uncomfortable, there is no reason to believe that you will be better at it for someone else.

What should I consider before agreeing to be a personal representative of a friend or family member’s estate?

First and foremost, you should consider whether or not you will be able to put your personal feelings aside and look out for the beneficiaries’ interests. If there are any conflicts between you and the beneficiaries to the estate, it may be best to decline. Also, ask yourself if you have the time to undertake such a diverse and sometimes complex task, which requires the attention to detail needed to get things approved by the court and the patience needed to deal with the beneficiaries. You may also have to spend time interviewing appraisers, reviewing appraisals once completed, and coordinating visits for the appraiser to access the home or other personal property items of value. Along the same lines, you need to consider whether or not you want to be involved with the sale of real estate, managing an estate sale, distributing family artifacts, and paying the funeral bills. If these are tasks that you could manage, while keeping the beneficiaries' best interests in mind, then you may be the right person for the job.

What should I expect from my estate planning consultation?

During the estate planning consultation, we will review your designation of beneficiaries on everything from your life insurance policy to your retirement plans and 401k/IRAs. It is important to discuss your beneficiary designations to manage expectations about what will happen to that money after your death, including who will manage the money if your beneficiary is still a minor when you pass away. To ensure that the money is spent in a responsible manner, we can assist you in placing age limitations on distributions of funds or including a spendthrift provision in a trust. We can also discuss plans for paying for college for children or grandchildren.

When is it too late to draft a new will or other estate planning document?

To draft a will you must have testamentary capacity, which means an ability to understand what it means to create a will, what property you own, who would naturally be your beneficiaries, and the terms of the document when you sign. You can be elderly and you can be sick, but as long as you have capacity and there is no undue influence placed on you, you can draft a new estate plan.

When is the right time for me to think about estate planning?

You should think about estate planning after any major life changing event: a marriage, divorce, birth of a child, or change in employment. You should also rewrite your estate plan if it has been more than seven years since you last revised your plan. Many people think that, in today’s uncertain financial and tax market, there really isn’t a good reason to see an estate planner. This assumption is just plain wrong. In this down economy, there are substantial tax-planning advantages we can use to our benefit. We can set up a gift of depreciated stock to a younger generation so that the donee’s gains are calculated on the original donor’s share price. (Assuming a purchase at $250 a share, and that the shares are now worth $175 each, the donee will not pay taxes on any gain unless he or she sells the share for over $250.) We could also set up a gift of depreciated real property into a QPRT allowing for the property to be gifted at an extremely discounted basis. If there are substantial assets, we may recommend selling assets to an IDGT that can freeze the assets at today’s value.

Why is it important to use an estate planning professional to draft a will?

Estate planning documents are only as good as the assistance, advice and instruction you receive with them.

For example, if you never address how your assets are titled, your will may not be sufficient to achieve your goals. If you draft a will leaving your spouse half and your child half but 95% of your assets are titled directly to your spouse, then your child will only get half of 5%. The other 95% of the property passes immediately to your spouse upon your death because they are held in joint ownership or your spouse is the named beneficiary on the title. These assets will not pass through your estate in accordance with the terms of your will.

This is only one of many complications that an estate planning professional will help you to anticipate and address.


Probate

Is it appropriate for me to help my parents with their estate planning?

Sometimes. Understand that the estate planning attorney will not be your attorney, but rather an attorney for your parents. If your parents do not wish to change their plans, you cannot force or improperly influence them to do so. There can be no undue influence to direct how the estate plan should be structured, or the will may likely be invalidated later. This is a worst-case scenario.

Usually, well-intentioned children can significantly help their parents with an estate plan. They can provide transportation to and from estate planning sessions and help to gather necessary documents. Some of the most productive estate planning sessions can be described as family meetings, where the family gets together and honestly talks about where the money is most needed (for example, paying college tuition for children or grandchildren). These meetings can be very productive in determining the goals of the estate plan: do you want a large sum immediately upon death, trusts that pay out over time, or substantial gifting now without leaving much, if anything, in your estate? Please understand that the estate planning advice will be for your parents and their interests, and you will not be allowed to remain present in the office for the full time of the appointment. The attorney and your parents will need to spend some time independently discussing matters to ensure that the results are truly reflective of your parents' wishes.

What should I consider before agreeing to be a guardian or conservator for a friend or family member?

First, consider if there are any bankruptcies and/or criminal charges or convictions that may disqualify you. If there are, you may want to decline to be considered. Next, you should consider if you have the time available to take on such a task, and whether you can get along with the ward’s family well enough to be an information source about his or her health and financial situation. Then, the most important consideration is whether you feel confident in making medical or financial decisions in your own life. If your own health and financial decisions make you feel uncomfortable, there is no reason to believe that you will be better at it for someone else.

What should I consider before agreeing to be a personal representative of a friend or family member’s estate?

First and foremost, you should consider whether or not you will be able to put your personal feelings aside and look out for the beneficiaries’ interests. If there are any conflicts between you and the beneficiaries to the estate, it may be best to decline. Also, ask yourself if you have the time to undertake such a diverse and sometimes complex task, which requires the attention to detail needed to get things approved by the court and the patience needed to deal with the beneficiaries. You may also have to spend time interviewing appraisers, reviewing appraisals once completed, and coordinating visits for the appraiser to access the home or other personal property items of value. Along the same lines, you need to consider whether or not you want to be involved with the sale of real estate, managing an estate sale, distributing family artifacts, and paying the funeral bills. If these are tasks that you could manage, while keeping the beneficiaries' best interests in mind, then you may be the right person for the job.

What should I expect from my estate planning consultation?

During the estate planning consultation, we will review your designation of beneficiaries on everything from your life insurance policy to your retirement plans and 401k/IRAs. It is important to discuss your beneficiary designations to manage expectations about what will happen to that money after your death, including who will manage the money if your beneficiary is still a minor when you pass away. To ensure that the money is spent in a responsible manner, we can assist you in placing age limitations on distributions of funds or including a spendthrift provision in a trust. We can also discuss plans for paying for college for children or grandchildren.

When is it too late to draft a new will or other estate planning document?

To draft a will you must have testamentary capacity, which means an ability to understand what it means to create a will, what property you own, who would naturally be your beneficiaries, and the terms of the document when you sign. You can be elderly and you can be sick, but as long as you have capacity and there is no undue influence placed on you, you can draft a new estate plan.

When is the right time for me to think about estate planning?

You should think about estate planning after any major life changing event: a marriage, divorce, birth of a child, or change in employment. You should also rewrite your estate plan if it has been more than seven years since you last revised your plan. Many people think that, in today’s uncertain financial and tax market, there really isn’t a good reason to see an estate planner. This assumption is just plain wrong. In this down economy, there are substantial tax-planning advantages we can use to our benefit. We can set up a gift of depreciated stock to a younger generation so that the donee’s gains are calculated on the original donor’s share price. (Assuming a purchase at $250 a share, and that the shares are now worth $175 each, the donee will not pay taxes on any gain unless he or she sells the share for over $250.) We could also set up a gift of depreciated real property into a QPRT allowing for the property to be gifted at an extremely discounted basis. If there are substantial assets, we may recommend selling assets to an IDGT that can freeze the assets at today’s value.

Why is it important to use an estate planning professional to draft a will?

Estate planning documents are only as good as the assistance, advice and instruction you receive with them.

For example, if you never address how your assets are titled, your will may not be sufficient to achieve your goals. If you draft a will leaving your spouse half and your child half but 95% of your assets are titled directly to your spouse, then your child will only get half of 5%. The other 95% of the property passes immediately to your spouse upon your death because they are held in joint ownership or your spouse is the named beneficiary on the title. These assets will not pass through your estate in accordance with the terms of your will.

This is only one of many complications that an estate planning professional will help you to anticipate and address.


Tax Planning

Is it appropriate for me to help my parents with their estate planning?

Sometimes. Understand that the estate planning attorney will not be your attorney, but rather an attorney for your parents. If your parents do not wish to change their plans, you cannot force or improperly influence them to do so. There can be no undue influence to direct how the estate plan should be structured, or the will may likely be invalidated later. This is a worst-case scenario.

Usually, well-intentioned children can significantly help their parents with an estate plan. They can provide transportation to and from estate planning sessions and help to gather necessary documents. Some of the most productive estate planning sessions can be described as family meetings, where the family gets together and honestly talks about where the money is most needed (for example, paying college tuition for children or grandchildren). These meetings can be very productive in determining the goals of the estate plan: do you want a large sum immediately upon death, trusts that pay out over time, or substantial gifting now without leaving much, if anything, in your estate? Please understand that the estate planning advice will be for your parents and their interests, and you will not be allowed to remain present in the office for the full time of the appointment. The attorney and your parents will need to spend some time independently discussing matters to ensure that the results are truly reflective of your parents' wishes.

What should I consider before agreeing to be a guardian or conservator for a friend or family member?

First, consider if there are any bankruptcies and/or criminal charges or convictions that may disqualify you. If there are, you may want to decline to be considered. Next, you should consider if you have the time available to take on such a task, and whether you can get along with the ward’s family well enough to be an information source about his or her health and financial situation. Then, the most important consideration is whether you feel confident in making medical or financial decisions in your own life. If your own health and financial decisions make you feel uncomfortable, there is no reason to believe that you will be better at it for someone else.

What should I consider before agreeing to be a personal representative of a friend or family member’s estate?

First and foremost, you should consider whether or not you will be able to put your personal feelings aside and look out for the beneficiaries’ interests. If there are any conflicts between you and the beneficiaries to the estate, it may be best to decline. Also, ask yourself if you have the time to undertake such a diverse and sometimes complex task, which requires the attention to detail needed to get things approved by the court and the patience needed to deal with the beneficiaries. You may also have to spend time interviewing appraisers, reviewing appraisals once completed, and coordinating visits for the appraiser to access the home or other personal property items of value. Along the same lines, you need to consider whether or not you want to be involved with the sale of real estate, managing an estate sale, distributing family artifacts, and paying the funeral bills. If these are tasks that you could manage, while keeping the beneficiaries' best interests in mind, then you may be the right person for the job.

What should I expect from my estate planning consultation?

During the estate planning consultation, we will review your designation of beneficiaries on everything from your life insurance policy to your retirement plans and 401k/IRAs. It is important to discuss your beneficiary designations to manage expectations about what will happen to that money after your death, including who will manage the money if your beneficiary is still a minor when you pass away. To ensure that the money is spent in a responsible manner, we can assist you in placing age limitations on distributions of funds or including a spendthrift provision in a trust. We can also discuss plans for paying for college for children or grandchildren.

When is it too late to draft a new will or other estate planning document?

To draft a will you must have testamentary capacity, which means an ability to understand what it means to create a will, what property you own, who would naturally be your beneficiaries, and the terms of the document when you sign. You can be elderly and you can be sick, but as long as you have capacity and there is no undue influence placed on you, you can draft a new estate plan.

When is the right time for me to think about estate planning?

You should think about estate planning after any major life changing event: a marriage, divorce, birth of a child, or change in employment. You should also rewrite your estate plan if it has been more than seven years since you last revised your plan. Many people think that, in today’s uncertain financial and tax market, there really isn’t a good reason to see an estate planner. This assumption is just plain wrong. In this down economy, there are substantial tax-planning advantages we can use to our benefit. We can set up a gift of depreciated stock to a younger generation so that the donee’s gains are calculated on the original donor’s share price. (Assuming a purchase at $250 a share, and that the shares are now worth $175 each, the donee will not pay taxes on any gain unless he or she sells the share for over $250.) We could also set up a gift of depreciated real property into a QPRT allowing for the property to be gifted at an extremely discounted basis. If there are substantial assets, we may recommend selling assets to an IDGT that can freeze the assets at today’s value.

Why is it important to use an estate planning professional to draft a will?

Estate planning documents are only as good as the assistance, advice and instruction you receive with them.

For example, if you never address how your assets are titled, your will may not be sufficient to achieve your goals. If you draft a will leaving your spouse half and your child half but 95% of your assets are titled directly to your spouse, then your child will only get half of 5%. The other 95% of the property passes immediately to your spouse upon your death because they are held in joint ownership or your spouse is the named beneficiary on the title. These assets will not pass through your estate in accordance with the terms of your will.

This is only one of many complications that an estate planning professional will help you to anticipate and address.


Trusts

Is it appropriate for me to help my parents with their estate planning?

Sometimes. Understand that the estate planning attorney will not be your attorney, but rather an attorney for your parents. If your parents do not wish to change their plans, you cannot force or improperly influence them to do so. There can be no undue influence to direct how the estate plan should be structured, or the will may likely be invalidated later. This is a worst-case scenario.

Usually, well-intentioned children can significantly help their parents with an estate plan. They can provide transportation to and from estate planning sessions and help to gather necessary documents. Some of the most productive estate planning sessions can be described as family meetings, where the family gets together and honestly talks about where the money is most needed (for example, paying college tuition for children or grandchildren). These meetings can be very productive in determining the goals of the estate plan: do you want a large sum immediately upon death, trusts that pay out over time, or substantial gifting now without leaving much, if anything, in your estate? Please understand that the estate planning advice will be for your parents and their interests, and you will not be allowed to remain present in the office for the full time of the appointment. The attorney and your parents will need to spend some time independently discussing matters to ensure that the results are truly reflective of your parents' wishes.

What should I consider before agreeing to be a guardian or conservator for a friend or family member?

First, consider if there are any bankruptcies and/or criminal charges or convictions that may disqualify you. If there are, you may want to decline to be considered. Next, you should consider if you have the time available to take on such a task, and whether you can get along with the ward’s family well enough to be an information source about his or her health and financial situation. Then, the most important consideration is whether you feel confident in making medical or financial decisions in your own life. If your own health and financial decisions make you feel uncomfortable, there is no reason to believe that you will be better at it for someone else.

What should I consider before agreeing to be a personal representative of a friend or family member’s estate?

First and foremost, you should consider whether or not you will be able to put your personal feelings aside and look out for the beneficiaries’ interests. If there are any conflicts between you and the beneficiaries to the estate, it may be best to decline. Also, ask yourself if you have the time to undertake such a diverse and sometimes complex task, which requires the attention to detail needed to get things approved by the court and the patience needed to deal with the beneficiaries. You may also have to spend time interviewing appraisers, reviewing appraisals once completed, and coordinating visits for the appraiser to access the home or other personal property items of value. Along the same lines, you need to consider whether or not you want to be involved with the sale of real estate, managing an estate sale, distributing family artifacts, and paying the funeral bills. If these are tasks that you could manage, while keeping the beneficiaries' best interests in mind, then you may be the right person for the job.

What should I expect from my estate planning consultation?

During the estate planning consultation, we will review your designation of beneficiaries on everything from your life insurance policy to your retirement plans and 401k/IRAs. It is important to discuss your beneficiary designations to manage expectations about what will happen to that money after your death, including who will manage the money if your beneficiary is still a minor when you pass away. To ensure that the money is spent in a responsible manner, we can assist you in placing age limitations on distributions of funds or including a spendthrift provision in a trust. We can also discuss plans for paying for college for children or grandchildren.

When is it too late to draft a new will or other estate planning document?

To draft a will you must have testamentary capacity, which means an ability to understand what it means to create a will, what property you own, who would naturally be your beneficiaries, and the terms of the document when you sign. You can be elderly and you can be sick, but as long as you have capacity and there is no undue influence placed on you, you can draft a new estate plan.

When is the right time for me to think about estate planning?

You should think about estate planning after any major life changing event: a marriage, divorce, birth of a child, or change in employment. You should also rewrite your estate plan if it has been more than seven years since you last revised your plan. Many people think that, in today’s uncertain financial and tax market, there really isn’t a good reason to see an estate planner. This assumption is just plain wrong. In this down economy, there are substantial tax-planning advantages we can use to our benefit. We can set up a gift of depreciated stock to a younger generation so that the donee’s gains are calculated on the original donor’s share price. (Assuming a purchase at $250 a share, and that the shares are now worth $175 each, the donee will not pay taxes on any gain unless he or she sells the share for over $250.) We could also set up a gift of depreciated real property into a QPRT allowing for the property to be gifted at an extremely discounted basis. If there are substantial assets, we may recommend selling assets to an IDGT that can freeze the assets at today’s value.

Who should have an estate plan, will or trust?

Everyone! There is an unfortunate, widespread misconception that only the wealthy need an Estate Plan. In fact, an Estate Plan is for anyone who wishes to provide for their survivors. If you pass away without a will or other Estate Plan, the laws of the state take over, and these laws may not reflect your wishes or provide for the ones you love.

Why is it important to use an estate planning professional to draft a will?

Estate planning documents are only as good as the assistance, advice and instruction you receive with them.

For example, if you never address how your assets are titled, your will may not be sufficient to achieve your goals. If you draft a will leaving your spouse half and your child half but 95% of your assets are titled directly to your spouse, then your child will only get half of 5%. The other 95% of the property passes immediately to your spouse upon your death because they are held in joint ownership or your spouse is the named beneficiary on the title. These assets will not pass through your estate in accordance with the terms of your will.

This is only one of many complications that an estate planning professional will help you to anticipate and address.


Wills

Is it appropriate for me to help my parents with their estate planning?

Sometimes. Understand that the estate planning attorney will not be your attorney, but rather an attorney for your parents. If your parents do not wish to change their plans, you cannot force or improperly influence them to do so. There can be no undue influence to direct how the estate plan should be structured, or the will may likely be invalidated later. This is a worst-case scenario.

Usually, well-intentioned children can significantly help their parents with an estate plan. They can provide transportation to and from estate planning sessions and help to gather necessary documents. Some of the most productive estate planning sessions can be described as family meetings, where the family gets together and honestly talks about where the money is most needed (for example, paying college tuition for children or grandchildren). These meetings can be very productive in determining the goals of the estate plan: do you want a large sum immediately upon death, trusts that pay out over time, or substantial gifting now without leaving much, if anything, in your estate? Please understand that the estate planning advice will be for your parents and their interests, and you will not be allowed to remain present in the office for the full time of the appointment. The attorney and your parents will need to spend some time independently discussing matters to ensure that the results are truly reflective of your parents' wishes.

What should I consider before agreeing to be a guardian or conservator for a friend or family member?

First, consider if there are any bankruptcies and/or criminal charges or convictions that may disqualify you. If there are, you may want to decline to be considered. Next, you should consider if you have the time available to take on such a task, and whether you can get along with the ward’s family well enough to be an information source about his or her health and financial situation. Then, the most important consideration is whether you feel confident in making medical or financial decisions in your own life. If your own health and financial decisions make you feel uncomfortable, there is no reason to believe that you will be better at it for someone else.

What should I consider before agreeing to be a personal representative of a friend or family member’s estate?

First and foremost, you should consider whether or not you will be able to put your personal feelings aside and look out for the beneficiaries’ interests. If there are any conflicts between you and the beneficiaries to the estate, it may be best to decline. Also, ask yourself if you have the time to undertake such a diverse and sometimes complex task, which requires the attention to detail needed to get things approved by the court and the patience needed to deal with the beneficiaries. You may also have to spend time interviewing appraisers, reviewing appraisals once completed, and coordinating visits for the appraiser to access the home or other personal property items of value. Along the same lines, you need to consider whether or not you want to be involved with the sale of real estate, managing an estate sale, distributing family artifacts, and paying the funeral bills. If these are tasks that you could manage, while keeping the beneficiaries' best interests in mind, then you may be the right person for the job.

What should I expect from my estate planning consultation?

During the estate planning consultation, we will review your designation of beneficiaries on everything from your life insurance policy to your retirement plans and 401k/IRAs. It is important to discuss your beneficiary designations to manage expectations about what will happen to that money after your death, including who will manage the money if your beneficiary is still a minor when you pass away. To ensure that the money is spent in a responsible manner, we can assist you in placing age limitations on distributions of funds or including a spendthrift provision in a trust. We can also discuss plans for paying for college for children or grandchildren.

When is it too late to draft a new will or other estate planning document?

To draft a will you must have testamentary capacity, which means an ability to understand what it means to create a will, what property you own, who would naturally be your beneficiaries, and the terms of the document when you sign. You can be elderly and you can be sick, but as long as you have capacity and there is no undue influence placed on you, you can draft a new estate plan.

When is the right time for me to think about estate planning?

You should think about estate planning after any major life changing event: a marriage, divorce, birth of a child, or change in employment. You should also rewrite your estate plan if it has been more than seven years since you last revised your plan. Many people think that, in today’s uncertain financial and tax market, there really isn’t a good reason to see an estate planner. This assumption is just plain wrong. In this down economy, there are substantial tax-planning advantages we can use to our benefit. We can set up a gift of depreciated stock to a younger generation so that the donee’s gains are calculated on the original donor’s share price. (Assuming a purchase at $250 a share, and that the shares are now worth $175 each, the donee will not pay taxes on any gain unless he or she sells the share for over $250.) We could also set up a gift of depreciated real property into a QPRT allowing for the property to be gifted at an extremely discounted basis. If there are substantial assets, we may recommend selling assets to an IDGT that can freeze the assets at today’s value.

Who should have an estate plan, will or trust?

Everyone! There is an unfortunate, widespread misconception that only the wealthy need an Estate Plan. In fact, an Estate Plan is for anyone who wishes to provide for their survivors. If you pass away without a will or other Estate Plan, the laws of the state take over, and these laws may not reflect your wishes or provide for the ones you love.

Why is it important to use an estate planning professional to draft a will?

Estate planning documents are only as good as the assistance, advice and instruction you receive with them.

For example, if you never address how your assets are titled, your will may not be sufficient to achieve your goals. If you draft a will leaving your spouse half and your child half but 95% of your assets are titled directly to your spouse, then your child will only get half of 5%. The other 95% of the property passes immediately to your spouse upon your death because they are held in joint ownership or your spouse is the named beneficiary on the title. These assets will not pass through your estate in accordance with the terms of your will.

This is only one of many complications that an estate planning professional will help you to anticipate and address.


From The Kitchen

What efforts does SK&H make to be green?

SK&H makes environmental stewardship a priority; from responsible food purchasing for our kitchen to donating used building materials, our offices take steps to lessen the impact that we have on our environment.


Board Service

How is SK&H involved in the community?

SK&H prides itself on community involvement. See the numerous efforts.

What financial contributions does SK&H make to its communities?

See our list of financial contributions over the years.

What organizations does SK&H support?

SK&H supports many organizations and efforts for children and families by donating financially, legal services, and volunteering.


Children and Youth Activities

How is SK&H involved in the community?

SK&H prides itself on community involvement. See the numerous efforts.

What financial contributions does SK&H make to its communities?

See our list of financial contributions over the years.

What is the SK&H Summer Intern Program?

Our Summer Student Intern Program is designed to help high school students begin their college and professional careers on the right foot, with proper etiquette, manners, speech, and dress.

What organizations does SK&H support?

SK&H supports many organizations and efforts for children and families by donating financially, legal services, and volunteering.


Child Centered Solutions

How is SK&H involved in the community?

SK&H prides itself on community involvement. See the numerous efforts.

What financial contributions does SK&H make to its communities?

See our list of financial contributions over the years.

What organizations does SK&H support?

SK&H supports many organizations and efforts for children and families by donating financially, legal services, and volunteering.


Crooked River Roundup

How is SK&H involved in the community?

SK&H prides itself on community involvement. See the numerous efforts.


Environmental Stewardship

How is SK&H involved in the community?

SK&H prides itself on community involvement. See the numerous efforts.

What efforts does SK&H make to be green?

SK&H makes environmental stewardship a priority; from responsible food purchasing for our kitchen to donating used building materials, our offices take steps to lessen the impact that we have on our environment.

What financial contributions does SK&H make to its communities?

See our list of financial contributions over the years.

What organizations does SK&H support?

SK&H supports many organizations and efforts for children and families by donating financially, legal services, and volunteering.


Financial Donations

How is SK&H involved in the community?

SK&H prides itself on community involvement. See the numerous efforts.

What financial contributions does SK&H make to its communities?

See our list of financial contributions over the years.

What organizations does SK&H support?

SK&H supports many organizations and efforts for children and families by donating financially, legal services, and volunteering.


Legal Outreach

How is SK&H involved in the community?

SK&H prides itself on community involvement. See the numerous efforts.

What financial contributions does SK&H make to its communities?

See our list of financial contributions over the years.

What legal resources are available for low-income families and individuals?

SK&H participates in Pro Bono efforts through legal outreach.

What organizations does SK&H support?

SK&H supports many organizations and efforts for children and families by donating financially, legal services, and volunteering.


Lincoln Football

How is SK&H involved in the community?

SK&H prides itself on community involvement. See the numerous efforts.

What financial contributions does SK&H make to its communities?

See our list of financial contributions over the years.

What is the SK&H Summer Intern Program?

Our Summer Student Intern Program is designed to help high school students begin their college and professional careers on the right foot, with proper etiquette, manners, speech, and dress.

What organizations does SK&H support?

SK&H supports many organizations and efforts for children and families by donating financially, legal services, and volunteering.


Nonprofit Organizations

How is SK&H involved in the community?

SK&H prides itself on community involvement. See the numerous efforts.

What financial contributions does SK&H make to its communities?

See our list of financial contributions over the years.

What organizations does SK&H support?

SK&H supports many organizations and efforts for children and families by donating financially, legal services, and volunteering.


Rimrock Volleyball Club

How is SK&H involved in the community?

SK&H prides itself on community involvement. See the numerous efforts.

What financial contributions does SK&H make to its communities?

See our list of financial contributions over the years.

What organizations does SK&H support?

SK&H supports many organizations and efforts for children and families by donating financially, legal services, and volunteering.


Student Intern Program

How is SK&H involved in the community?

SK&H prides itself on community involvement. See the numerous efforts.

What financial contributions does SK&H make to its communities?

See our list of financial contributions over the years.

What is the SK&H Summer Intern Program?

Our Summer Student Intern Program is designed to help high school students begin their college and professional careers on the right foot, with proper etiquette, manners, speech, and dress.

What organizations does SK&H support?

SK&H supports many organizations and efforts for children and families by donating financially, legal services, and volunteering.