FAQs about Trust and Estate Litigation in Oregon and Washington State

Basic answers to trust and estate questions

Trust and estate laws include many complicated statutes, apply to difficult situations and affect close relationships. Kell, Alterman & Runstein, L.L.P. offers clients a team of trust and estate attorneys with the dedication, skills and diplomacy to resolve effectively the most complex trust and estate matters. The following provides answers to some of the basic questions clients should know before moving forward with trust and estate litigation.

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For more than 80 years, Kell, Alterman & Runstein, L.L.P. has provided knowledgeable construction law advice to a diverse clientele in Portland, Oregon, and nationally. We welcome inquiries regarding the firm’s services. Contact us at 503-222-3531 or online.

  1. What is estate planning?
  2. Is it necessary for a lawyer from Kell, Alterman & Runstein, L.L.P. to draft my will?
  3. What is a trust?
  4. What are the duties and obligations of an executor, trustee personal representative?
  5. What is a power of attorney?
  6. What is probate?
  7. Can an interested party contest a will or trust?

1. What is estate planning?

Estate planning is the accumulation and disposition of an estate, typically to minimize taxes and maximize the transfer of wealth to an intended beneficiary. Estate planning tools include wills, trusts, powers of appointment, powers of attorney, medical powers of attorney and living wills, which protect property and help in the distribution of property outside the benefactor’s family. Without a will, state law dictates the distribution of property, most likely to relatives.

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2. Is it necessary for a lawyer from Kell, Alterman & Runstein, L.L.P. to draft my will?

While it may seem straightforward to draft a will, — and there are many websites and other sources that provide templates — personally drafted wills tend to be incomplete and invalid under state law. An attorney at Kell, Alterman & Runstein, L.L.P. is familiar with Oregon and Washington laws and can draft a legal will, valid and defendable under contest.

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3. What is a trust?

In a trust, a party known as the trustee has legal ownership of property transferred to him or her by the person making the trust, otherwise known as the grantor. Trust assets are invested and/or managed by the trustee for the benefit of one or more beneficiaries. A trust can be living, that is, established during the grantor’s lifetime, or testamentary, established in a will. A trustee can be either an individual or an institution, such as a bank. An experienced trust and estate attorney helps clients identify an appropriate trustee and assists in drawing up documents related to the trust.

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4. What are the duties and obligations of an executor, trustee personal representative?

The executor or personal representative follows state laws in Oregon and Washington to finalize the decedent’s affairs. Duties include the following:

  • Giving the proper notices to appropriate parties
  • Collecting the decedent’s property
  • Receiving claims against the estate
  • Paying valid claims and disputing others
  • Distributing estate property according to the will or state law

Selling estate property to cover debts or allow proper distribution may also be necessary. A skilled, reliable trust and estate attorney from Kell, Alterman & Runstein, L.L.P. can guide an executor or any personal representative of a decedent through all the legal requirements of trusts and estates.

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5. What is a power of attorney?

Valid in all states, the power of attorney grants one or more persons the power to act on another’s behalf. With a valid power of attorney, an agent can take any action permitted in any document, but the agent must present the document to invoke the power. Benefits of granting another power of attorney include:

  • Convenience in the buying or selling of assets without requiring in-person appearance to close the transaction
  • Preparation for situations in which a party many not be able to act on his or her behalf due to absence or incapacity
  • The ability to manage the personal or business affairs of someone who is incapacitated. People appointed in this manner are referred to as guardians, conservators or committees, depending upon state law.

Choosing a power of attorney in the present, before it is needed may avoid a future court proceeding or other intervention.

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6. What is probate?

Probate is the legal process of administering an estate after someone dies. Through the probate courts, deceased persons’ property passes directly to their beneficiaries. Probate management and litigation include the following:

  • Proving in court that a deceased person’s will is valid
  • Identifying and inventorying the deceased person’s property
  • Appraising the property
  • Paying debts and taxes
  • Distributing property as directed by a will
  • Transferring title and ownership of assets to the proper beneficiaries

A trust and estate attorney at Kell, Alterman & Runstein, L.L.P. is familiar with Oregon and Washington state laws and can assist in all matters of probate.

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7. Can an interested party contest a will or trust?

Yes, when the person who wrote the will or trust was forced, deceived, mentally incompetent or unduly influenced. Will contests in all states are protracted, messy and emotional matters. Most probate courts advise or order the parties contesting wills, trusts and other estates to contact an attorney before proceeding.

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