Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Do Grandparents Have Visitation Rights? Understanding Grandparents’ Rights in Oregon.

Grandparents’ Rights in OregonGrandparents’ rights in Oregon are complex and difficult to understand. Do grandparents have visitation rights with regard to their grandchildren? Can grandparents take custody of a child? While there are no specific laws governing grandparents per se, there is case law addressing the rights of third parties who have established “emotional ties creating a child-parent relationship.”  These third parties can be related or non-related to the child. Grandparents, stepparents and other relatives or legal guardians can be vital to a child’s well being in situations where parents are either unable to properly care for a child or are absent altogether from a child’s life.  In these situations understanding your legal rights as grandparents, both in regards to visitation and custody, is essential.
Grandparents’ rights in Oregon are difficult because there is a presumption that the legal parent (mother or father) acts in the best interest of the child.  Thus, if a parent objects to grandparents having visitation or custody of a child, the grandparent must overcome the presumption the legal parent’s decision is in the best interest of the child. This is very difficult to do because the law puts great weight on parents’ rights to make decisions about their children. In determining whether to award custody or visitation to a grandparent, the court may consider several factors such as whether the grandparent has been the child’s primary caretaker; whether it would be detrimental to the child if the relief is denied; whether the legal parent has fostered and/or unreasonably denied the relationship between the child and the grandparent; and whether the legal parent is unwilling or unable to care adequately for the child.

In 2011 (See link HERE), the Oregon Court of Appeals denied the grandparents’ petition for visitation rights of their grandchild, despite grandparents being the child’s foster parents for over a year when the parents were unable to care for the child.  The court found grandparents had not proven the child would face a "serious present risk of harm" if visitation were denied. Grandparents also did not show the child's relationship with his parents would not be harmed if their request for visitation were granted.

The above result is not uncommon in Oregon but every case is very different due to the unique set of circumstances families face. If you are a grandparent or another third party with questions about visitation or custody of a child you should contact Gevurtz Menashe today. Our qualified attorneys specialize in many areas of family law, including third party custody and visitation rights, in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.  Call 503-227-1515 for our Portland office or 360-823-0410 for our Vancouver office today!

Paige De Muniz, Shareholder

Friday, January 16, 2015

5 Things to Know before Setting up an Irrevocable Family Trust

Keep it in the family- your money, that is!  When it comes to protecting your assets for future generations, most often your children or grandchildren, an irrevocable family trust can be a powerful tool.  Setting up a family trust is a complex process, however, so the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney is highly advisable. Before setting up a family trust, you should consider the following:

  1. The Key Players – Every trust, family trusts included, requires three key players: the Settlor, the Trustee and the Beneficiary (or Beneficiaries). The Settlor is the person who establishes the trust; typically the Settlor is the person who owns the property initially contributed to the trust. The Trustee is the person or entity who manages the trust according to the Settlor’s wishes. The Trustee is usually a family member, but sometimes a professional Trustee or institution administers the family trust. The Beneficiaries are those persons who stand to benefit from the trust, usually children, grandchildren and other relatives of the Settlor.

  2. The Assets – One of the primary reasons for forming an irrevocable family trust is to protect assets, either from creditors or from exposure to taxes. Assets that you own can be sold or gifted into the trust, effectively allowing the Trustee to manage and distribute the property according to the terms of the family trust agreement. If the family trust is structured and administered properly, assets in the trust can be protected from creditors and can avoid estate and income taxation.
  3. Know the Risks – Like most things in life, irrevocable family trusts are not foolproof.  In order to enjoy the asset protection and estate tax reduction benefits, careful compliance is required.  The assistance of a knowledgeable trust attorney and accountant is crucial.  Failure to properly establish and maintain a family trust can result in negative income and estate tax consequences and can expose your family’s assets to creditors.  You must also make sure that the Trustee is reliable. Once you contribute property to the family trust, you generally lose the right to control or benefit from that property.
  4. Know the Demands– While there are many benefits to establishing an irrevocable family trust, they are not for everyone.  Setting up a family trust can be complicated, and regular maintenance is required to ensure they function properly.
  5. Hire the Right Attorney – Gevurtz Menashe’s family trust attorneys can not only assist with the initial formation of irrevocable trusts, but also with the maintenance and termination of trusts. Contact us today for more information or to schedule a consultation.

    John Christianson, Of Counsel (Estate Planning)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Gevurtz Menashe Partners With DoveLewis & Oregon Dress For Success

This fall, Gevurtz Menashe was a proud sponsor of two great local organizations: Dress For Success Oregon and DoveLewis.

In September, we partnered with DoveLewis animal hospital as an official vendor for the 20th annual Dogtoberfest, at Lucky Labrador Brew Pub, benefitting the organization’s blood bank. Our support included sponsored giveaways and information about pet protections and estate plans. The event featured community volunteers who washed, dried, and wrangled hundreds of dogs while their owners enjoy live music and Lucky Lab refreshments. All proceeds from the event benefited the DoveLewis Blood Bank.

This month, under the leadership of shareholder, Saville Easley, our firm partnered with OWLS and Dress For Success Oregon by participating in their annual fashion show fundraiser. Shareholders Shawn Menashe and Paige De Muniz each modeled professional attire from local Portland clothing boutiques  Mabel and Zora and The Lion’s Den Man’s Shop. This year’s fashion show raised over $5,000 for Dress for Success Oregon and garnered hundreds of articles of clothing through the event’s “Suit Drive.”
We continued our support by attending the organization’s annual Empowerment Breakfast on Wednesday, October 8th at the Sentinel Hotel. This year’s breakfast helped raise funds to support Dress for Success career development program which helps low-income women transition out of generational poverty.

Monday, November 3, 2014

GMLH Listed as 'Top 5' Law Firm by Vancouver Business Journal

This year, Gevurtz Menashe was recognized as one of the top five Largest Law Firms in Clark County by The Vancouver Business Journal.  Other firms in this ranking in S.W. Washington include Landerholm, Jordan Ramis PC, Miller Nash, and Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt. We are proud to rank among these firms and thank the Clark County legal community for their continued support.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Gevurtz Menashe Welcomes Estate Planning Attorney – Stefan Wolf

We welcome attorney Stefan Wolf to Gevurtz Menashe this month.  Stefan has practiced law for the last four years and has successfully administered numerous wills, trusts, gift tax returns, estate tax returns, and probate cases. He received his B.A. from Whitman College and his J. D. from Lewis & Clark Law School, where he graduated Cum Laude. He will continue to handle estate planning matters such as asset protection planning, beneficiary representation, estate and gift taxes, probate, wills and revocable trusts. Stefan’s passions are traveling, skiing and spending time with his family. If it weren’t for his loyalty to the city of Portland, Stefan would prefer to be living in Kauai – but really, who wouldn’t?

Read more about Stefan HERE.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Kathryn Smith Root Receives Oregon Women Lawyers’ 2014 Katherine H. O’Neil Volunteer Service Award

We are proud to announce that our friend and colleague, Kathryn Smith Root, received the 2014 Oregon Women Lawyers’ Katherine H. O’Neil Volunteer Service Award. Kathy is a true and dedicated leader who has devoted her professional career to assisting others. Her 30 years of managing various charitable and professional pursuits, pro bono counseling, and work as a family law attorney made her the perfect candidate. This award recognizes sustained contributions of service in an identified position with OWLS or an OWLS chapter, the Oregon Women Lawyers Foundation, the National Conference of Women’s Bar Associations, the National Association of Women Lawyers, or the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession.

Kathryn is also a proud founder of OWLS. Her ongoing commitment  to promote women and minorities in the Oregon legal profession is profound. Kathryn is a sought-after mentor, and currently serves as Chair of the OWLS Foundation Advisory Board. Congratulations, Kathryn on this well-deserved honor!

Read more about Kathryn HERE.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Financial Aid Considerations for Children of Divorced or Never-Married Parents

Whether a divorce was amicable, angry, or somewhere in between, divorced parents can face extra challenges when trying to help their college-bound children apply for financial aid. This article offers some suggestions for divorced and never-married parents to try to help reduce the anxiety and stress that can accompany what can be a complicated and confusing process.

This fall some 21 million students are expected to attend American colleges and universities. This is an increase of about 5.7 million since fall 2000. 1 For the 2012–13 academic year, the average annual price for undergraduate tuition, fees, room, and board was $15,022 at public institutions and $39,173 at private nonprofit institutions.2 These costs don’t include school supplies, clothing, transportation, food, equipment, etc.  The average 2013-2014 tuition increase was 3.8 percent at private colleges, and 2.9 percent at public universities.3     These figures are substantially higher than the general inflation rate and higher than the average increase in personal income.
Unfortunately, as college costs increase, aid available to students has failed to keep pace. 4      This makes it even more important to apply for federal aid early and correctly.  To be eligible for federal student aid, the student must, among other things, demonstrate “financial need.”  Financial need means the difference between the cost of attendance at a school and the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). 5    Aid is based on the concept that it is primarily the student’s and his or her family’s responsibility to pay for the education.  An independent student (over 24 years old; married; has dependents of their own; parents deceased; working towards masters or doctorate degree; emancipated; active duty or veteran of U.S. armed forces) will only need to report his or her own information. (If married, they will also need to report a spouse’s information).  A dependent student is assumed to have the financial support of parents and thus, that parents’ financial information is required. 6       A “parent” is defined as a biological or adoptive parent.  It doesn’t matter if the student doesn’t live with his or her parents, the student must still report information about them.  For dependent students’ with divorced or separated parents, it can be confusing to know which parent’s financial information to use.
Here is what you need to know if you are divorcing, divorced, separated or never married and have a child applying for federal aid   [Note: Consistent with the Supreme Court decision holding Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional, same-sex couples must report their marital status as married if they were legally married in a state or other jurisdiction, without regard to where they live or where the student will be going to school]:

•    If you were never married or are widowed, only your financial information is considered.

•    If you are divorced or separated and don’t live together, the financial information considered is from the parent with whom the child has lived more during the past 12 months.  If the child spends the same amount of time with each divorced or separated parent, the financial information of the parent who provided more financial support during the past 12 months (i.e. child support) is considered.

•    If you are a stepparent who is married to the legal parent whose financial information is considered, your financial information will also be considered. See Federal Student Aid,

•    If you still live together, both parent’s financial information is considered.

Applying for federal aid can be complicated.  For more information visit  

In addition to helping your student apply for federal student aid, you can also contribute to your child’s college expenses through the following:

•    A Section 529 Plan is a special type of education savings account that offers certain tax benefits.  Funds within a 529 Plan account grow tax free, much like a 401(k) or IRA.  Withdrawals from the account may also be made on a tax-free basis, so long as the withdrawals are used for qualified educational expenses (tuition, fees, books, room and board, etc.).  Contributions to a 529 Plan are not deductible from federal income taxes, but many states (including Oregon) offer a state income tax deduction.

•    Contributions to 529 Plans constitute gifts under federal gift tax law.  If the contributions, together with all other gifts you have made to the child in that calendar year, total less than $14,000, the 529 contribution will qualify for the annual gift tax exclusion and does not need to be reported on a gift tax return.

•    One benefit unique to 529 Plans is that contributors may elect to use up to five years of annual gift tax exclusions for one contribution.  For example, you could contribute up to $70,000 to a 529 Plan today for your child without making any taxable gifts.  To make this election, the gift must be reported on a timely filed gift tax return (which is due April 15th in the calendar year after the gift is made). 

•    In addition to the tax benefits of 529 Plans, the Internal Revenue Code provides that amounts paid directly to an educational institution for tuition expenses escape gift tax completely.  That means that payment of your child’s tuition bill does not count toward the $14,000 annual limit.  There are two important rules to consider when making tuition payments. First, to qualify for the exclusion, the payment has to be made directly to the educational institution; you cannot give the money to your child.  Second, the exclusion only applies to amounts for tuition expenses, so to the extent that payments for books, room and board exceed $14,000 per child per year, they will constitute taxable gifts.

Written by Paige De Muniz, Shareholder (Family Law), and John Christianson, Of Counsel (Estate Planning)

1 U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), January, 2014.
2U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Higher Education General Information Survey (HEGIS), March 2014.  
3The College Board,
4The College Board,
5Federal Student Aid,
6Federal Student Aid,