Boulder Garfield County UT estate planning young adults

Estate Planning: What to Think About Before Meeting Your Lawyer

831(b) captive estate planning

Go Back

I have been doing estate planning for over two decades. Yet, last week a questioned posed by a young couple seemed to resonate in my mind like never before. "What is the number one benefit of doing a trust?" My mind quickly raced to the 1980's movie "City Slickers" when the old crusty cowboy said to Billy Crystal, the city slicker, that he must find "just one thing" that is important to him in life and use that as a motivation to have a happy and successful life. This line made me realize that the "just one thing" in estate planning, like the movie, is different for each person. The true answer is the quintessential cliché, "it depends". The purpose of this article will list some of the most important factors that people should consider. In the end, whatever your "just one thing" is should motivate you to take action and provide "Peace of Mind" for your loved ones.

Avoiding Probate - This seems to be the relevant factor cited most frequently, although I disagree that it is the most important reason to plan. Probate in Arizona is not the costly, burdensome procedure that it is in some states like California or New York. Yes, it does cost some money, but in most cases the cost is only a few thousand dollars. The severity of probate depends largely on the make-up of the assets. The more "complicated assets" you have (ie Oil Leases, closely held family businesses, Partnerships, fractional interests in Real Estate, etc.) and the more states in which you own real estate, then you drive up the "Probate Meter" very quickly. If you own real property in more than one state, you will have to have a probate proceeding in each state, which means you will probably need an attorney in each state. But, if your assets are "simple", (a house, a car, some CDs) and primarily located in Arizona, then the "Probate Meter" is very low.

Saving Taxes - People have heard this phrase over and over again in newspaper ads inviting people to public seminars put on by a "national expert" that nobody has ever really heard of. But, how does a Trust really help to save taxes? Under today's tax laws, a common Revocable Trust does not save taxes for most people. First, a Trust doesn't save any income taxes. The Trust is ignored for income tax purposes and all of the income generated by the Trust is taxed to the individual Grantors of the Trust as usual. Also, for a single person, a Trust does not save any estate taxes. But, for a married couple, a Trust can save estate taxes. Most married couples have a Revocable Trust, that splits into an "A" and a "B" trust at the death of the first spouse. The primary reason for this split is that it guarantees that the couple will get two exemptions to apply against the estate tax. One exemption for the "B" trust when the first spouse dies, and then a second exemption against the "A" trust when the surviving spouse passes. Without an A/B trust, it is possible that the exemption of the first spouse could be wasted. But, since the federal estate tax exemption is now set at $5 million, most couples only need one exemption anyway. So, in the end, for probably 95% of married couples, having a trust will not save any estate taxes. Now, this is true as to the Revocable living trust. Don't confuse this with the 4 or 5 other "specialty trusts" that have the specific purpose of saving estate taxes. Examples of a "specialty trust" would be an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (designed to keep life insurance out of the estate tax system) and a Qualified Personal Residence Trust (designed to keep the primary and vacation residences out of the estate tax system).
Restrictions and Incentives for Spouse - A well drafted Trust should contain provisions as to what happens to the assets of the first spouse to die, if the surviving spouse remarries. Most clients want to adequately provide for their spouse, but they don't want to provide for their spouse's new husband or wife. Also, to what extent can the surviving spouse change the estate plan, after the death of the first spouse, to disinherit the children. My experience is that most spouses tend to remarry, and most of the time, that new spouse will also have children. Now, we end up with a "blended family". Over time, the surviving spouse feels love and loyalty to the new spouse, and perhaps the new stepchildren. We probably all agree that the surviving spouse should be able to do what they wish with respect to their community property half interest in the asses. The more difficult question is whether the surviving spouse can also control the ultimate disposition of the deceased spouse's community property half of the trust and make provisions for the new spouse or the new stepchildren out of the deceased spouses's half of the trust.

Restrictions and Incentives for Children - The key question here relates to the timing in which a child should gain unrestricted access, an outright distribution, to the assets after the death of both parents. We would all agree that if a child is a minor, then the assets should be controlled and restricted by an independent trustee for a period of time. What we may disagree on, is the appropriate age in which all restrictions and the independent trustee should be removed. Some clients say age 25, some say 30, and I have had many that say 50 or 60. My experience is that the older my clients are, the higher they will set the ages for their children to gain control. For example, if the kids are minors, then most couples will set the restriction to be lifted at age 30. However, if the couple is much older, and the kids are already over age 30, then these couples may set the restrictions to age 40 or 45. We may also want to build certain "incentives" into the estate plan. A common incentive is "if you earn a buck, then the trust will pay you another buck". So, you create an incentive for a child to go out and earn a living. Over the years, I have seen the destruction that is brought to a "trust fund baby". Money and inheritances can ruin a child and ruin a life. That is why many wealthy people will leave large portions of their wealth to charities, instead of their children (and yes, there are income tax advantages and estate tax advantages of doing this, but the primary reason would be to encourage the child to have a productive life). You may also want to provide incentives depending on if a child graduates from college or achieves some other educational benchmark. I do see the risk of using the trust as a "carrot" that is dangled in front of a child to be manipulative. But, some well thought out incentives can really go a long way to help a son or a daughter cope with the vicissitudes of life and be blessing to them, and not a curse.

Asset Protection - For example, having an A/B Trust as described above, can make sure that the assets of a deceased spouse are not subject to the creditor claims of the surviving spouse. As a firm, we are recommending A/B trusts for this reason more than the reason discussed above where an A/B trust can provide two estate tax exemptions. In variably, the surviving spouse ends up in a nursing home that chews up the net worth very quickly. So, having half of the estate in a "B" trust, protected from the creditors (ie nursing home costs) of the surviving spouse makes a lot of sense.

Also, a good estate planning attorney can structure the inheritance for the children, to remain in trust for their lifetime. This will protect the inheritance from the potential creditors of the child such as divorce, bankruptcy, lawsuits, etc. My estate plan is structured that upon the deaths of my wife and I, our estate will be divided out into separate trusts to provide one trust for each of our children. We have an independent trustee and some incentives in each trust. At age 35, the child has the right to become his or her own trustee. So, in essence, the child can now take from the trust whatever the child wants for his "health, education, support and maintenance". The child is also free, as the trustee, to invest the trust assets into a beach house, a cabin, or any investment that he or she chooses. Meanwhile, if that child divorces, his or her spouse cannot touch that trust. Also, if that child files bankruptcy, then the creditors cannot reach the assets in this trust. I call this a "wrapper of protection" that we can place around the assets which gives the trust "bullet proof" creditor protection to our children. It is also important to remember that a child cannot create his own trust to provide this kind of protection. The law in most states is such that a trust provides creditor protection only in cases where it was created by one person for the benefit of another person. In other words, the grantor or creator of the trust, cannot also be a beneficiary of the trust and achieve creditor protection. So, as long as the trust is created by a parent, for the benefit of a child or grandchild, it can have the creditor protection described above.

Providing a Plan for Incompetency - As all of us age, we can see that our minds and our memories start to diminish. Most of the estate litigation that comes into our firm relates one way or another to the incapacity of one or both of the parents. When this happens we see many children turn against each other and a fight ensues as to what is in the best interests of mom and dad. Unfortunately, the children seldom agree as to what is best. So, a legal battle is waged to determine who has the control of the assets and who has the ability to make medical and financial decisions. Yes, some of these problems should be addressed in a Power of Attorney. But, Powers of Attorney were meant to deal with short term situations, not permanent solutions. It is much better to have a plan, drafted inside of the Trust, as to who will become in charge ("successor trustee") when mom and dad are no longer capable. Also, to what extent will the Successor Trustee have a duty to give an accounting to all of the kids and keep them informed? Under what circumstances can mom and dad be moved out of state? What is the plan when the assets run out? Will mom and dad live in a nursing home? Keep in mind that someone over 75 is much more likely to become disabled and incompetent in the next 5 years then they are to die in the next 5 years. Then, couple this with the fact that the children are more likely to fight over issues as to what happens to mom and dad, then they are to fight over the inheritance if mom and dad die. Clients are much more likely to avoid all of these fights if there is a well drafted estate plan in place.

Privacy - Many clients like the fact that an estate administered under a Trust is more likely to be kept private then an estate administered by the Probate Court. So, some of our clients will create a Trust for that simple fact. We have all seen the ads on TV where someone is talking about the real estate strategy of buying property from an estate. How do these professionals find the property and know what is in probate and what isn't? The answer is simple, in many probate proceedings, an inventory is filed with the Court and this inventory is a public record. So, all that needs to happen is that you have a person sitting in an office, searching the probate records to find real estate. Then, it is also easy to find the names and addresses of the heirs. Now, if most of the heirs are out of state, and there is local real estate, then the magic is in the fact that these heirs are now "motivated sellers" and you can make a low ball offer. The bottom line is that the financial affairs of the decedent are now public records that can be easily searched from any computer. The creation of a Trust provides privacy and avoids this issue of privacy altogether.

In conclusion, there are many benefits to estate planning. It is also true that there are many risks and problems that are created by not having an estate plan in place. The reason and benefit that is important to you will depend on your situation. In fact, I have listed the reasons that are least important to me first, and the reasons that are most important to me last. That is me, but is based upon many years of experience. You must decide what is important to you. But, in the end at least focus on the issues and plan for the inevitable. Early in my career I developed a "line" that I used in my public seminars. When the client said, "oh, I really don't think estate planning will benefit me at all." My response was "okay, put my business card on your refrigerator". I said this tongue in cheek knowing that the few dollars the client should have spent on the creation of an estate plan would multiply into huge legal fees when the children would begin to fight trying to unravel the many problems caused by lack of planning, or poor planning. There is a reason that our estate litigation department is the fasting growing practice area of our firm. Hopefully, your family will not fall into this trap. Whatever your reason, or "just one thing" may be, use that as your motivation to create a quality estate plan. This will ensure invaluable peace of mind for you and also for your loved ones.

When you need your estate done right, please give us a call.

Go Forward

Do you want a Free Initial Consultation with an Estate Planning Lawyer?

Call 1-800-564-2707 today.

Mainpage

Home

Boulder Utah 9 estate planning pitfalls to avoid

Estate Planning - Consider Your Options Before it is Too Late

estate planning seminar

Go Back

Estate planning is not solely about planning for your death. It also involves planning for your life in the event you're mentally incapacitated. Having an estate plan in place is very important because it reflects your wishes for your children, family, property and assets.

Is Estate Planning Often Overlooked?

Despite its extreme importance, estate planning is often overlooked and neglected. Many people work hard throughout their lives to provide for their families and build their estates, only to have the very things they've worked for and people to protect in disarray because they didn't invest time in a comprehensive plan that reflects their wishes.

Statistics show that more than 50% Americans do not have an estate plan in place at the time of their death. This is likely due to the average person's unfamiliarity with the estate planning process itself. Because they do not understand its importance and how it works, many Americans forego wills, trusts and other estate documents.

Why do you Need an Estate Plan?

Without the proper documentation in place at the time of your death or incapacity, you are leaving it up to a judge you don't know to decide how to distribute your assets throughout your family, who will care for your minor children, and who will care for you if you're ever unable to care for yourself.

Five Questions to Answer in your Plan

In your plan, you want to proactively answer questions that may arise in the event of your death or incapacity. Generally, these questions will involve your assets, minor children, inheritances, health care directives and sometimes more.

Here are 5 questions you should answer in your plan:

  • Who do you want to care for your minor children?
  • Who will be responsible for managing your estates?
  • How will your assets and property be distributed?
  • Who will care for you if you're unable to care for yourself?
  • How will inheritances be distributed to beneficiaries?
Five Documents to Include in your Plan

A comprehensive estate plan is not a mere document. It's actually a combination of several documents that reflect your wishes regarding your minor children, your health care, and distribution of your assets, property and inheritances in the event of your death. It also covers your health care wishes if you're ever incapacitated and unable to make your own decisions.

Here are the minimum five (5) documents you should include in your estate plan:

  • Will
  • Power of Attorney
  • Trust
  • Living Will and Advantage Directives
  • Guardianship Plans for Minor Children

Many of us get uncomfortable when we think about dying and our family's life without us. It's not a topic anyone wants to consider more than once. However, it is critical that you take time now, while you're healthy and in a good state of mind, to invest time in getting your estate, health and other affairs in order, and create an estate plan that reflects your wishes upon your death or incapacitation.

Go Forward

Do you want a Free Initial Consultation with an Estate Planning Lawyer?

Call 1-800-564-2707 today.

Mainpage

Home

Bluffdale Utah County UT estate planning 5 year lookback

Estate Planning Overview, 101

estate planning for 80 year old

Go Back

The five levels of estate planning is a systematic approach for explaining estate planning in a way that you can easily follow. Which of the five levels you need to complete is based on your particular objectives and circumstances.

Level One: The Basic Plan

The situation for level one planning is that you have no will or living trust in place, or your existing will or living trust is outdated or inadequate. The objectives for this type of planning are to:

reduce or eliminate estate taxes;
avoid the cost, delays and publicity associated with probate in the event of death or incapacity; and
protect heirs from their inability, their disability, their creditors and their predators, including ex-spouses.

To accomplish these objectives, you would use a pour-over will, a revocable living trust that allocates a married person's estate between a credit shelter trust and a marital trust, general powers of attorney for financial matters and durable powers of attorney for health care and living wills.

Level Two: The Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT)

The situation for level two planning is that your estate is projected to be greater than the estate-tax exemption. In any event, you can make cash gifts to an ILIT using your $13,000/$26,000 annual gift-tax exclusion per beneficiary.

Level Three: Family Limited Partnerships

The situation for level three planning is that you have a projected estate-tax liability that exceeds the life insurance purchased in level two. If your $1 million gift-tax exemption ($2 million for married couples) is used to make lifetime gifts, the gifted property and all future appreciation and income on that property are removed from your estate.

More people would be willing to make gifts to their children if they could continue to manage the gifted property. A family limited partnership (FLP) or a family limited liability company (FLLC) can play a valuable role in this situation. You would typically be the general partner or manager and in that capacity, continue to manage the FLP or FLLC's assets. You can even take a reasonable management fee for your services as the general partner or manager. Moreover, by gifting FLP or FLLC interests to an ILIT, the FLP or FLLC's income can be used to pay premiums, thereby freeing up your $13,000 / $26,000 annual gift-tax exclusion for other types of gifts.

Level Four: Qualified Personal Residence Trusts and Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts

The situation for level four planning is the additional need to reduce your estate after your $1 million/$2 million gift-tax exemption has been used. Although paying gift taxes is less expensive than paying estate taxes, most people do not want to pay gift taxes. There are several techniques to make substantial gifts to children and grandchildren without paying significant gift taxes.

One technique is a qualified personal residence trust (QPRT). A QPRT allows you to transfer a residence or vacation home to a trust for the benefit of your children, while retaining the right to use the residence for a term of years. By retaining the right to occupy the residence, the value of the remainder interest is reduced, along with the taxable gift.

Another technique is a grantor retained annuity (GRAT). A GRAT is similar to a QPRT. The typical GRAT is funded with income-producing property such as subchapter S stock or FLP or FLLC interests. The GRAT pays you a fixed annuity for a specified term of years. Because of the retained annuity, the gift to the remaindermen (your children) is substantially less than the current value of the property.

Both QPRTs and GRATs can be designed with terms long enough to reduce the value of the remainder interest passing to your children to a nominal amount or even to zero. However, if you do not survive the stated term, the property is included in your estate. Therefore, it is recommended that an ILIT be funded as a "hedge" against your death prior to the end of the stated term.

Level Five: The Zero Estate-Tax Plan

Level five planning is a desire to "disinherit" the IRS. The strategy combines gifts of life insurance with gifts to charity. For example, take a married couple, both age 55, with a $20 million estate. Assume that there is neither growth nor depletion of the assets and that both spouses die in a year when the estate-tax exemption is $3.5 million, and the top estate-tax rate is 45%.

With the typical marital credit shelter trust, when the first spouse dies, $3.5 million is allocated to the credit shelter trust and $16.5 million to the marital trust. No federal estate tax is due. However, at the surviving spouse's death, the estate tax due is $5.85 million. The net result is that the children inherit only $14.15 million.

With the zero estate-tax plan, the ILIT (with generation-skipping provisions) is funded with a $13 million second-to-die life insurance policy. These gifts reduce the estate value to $18 million. In addition, the couple's living trusts each leave $3.5 million (the amount exempt from estate taxes) to their children upon the surviving spouse's death. The balance of their estate ($11 million) passes to a public charity or private foundation-estate-tax free. To summarize, the zero estate-tax plan delivers $20 million (i.e., $13 million from the ILIT and $7 million from the living trusts) to the children instead of $14.15 million; the charity receives $11 million instead of nothing; and the IRS receives nothing, instead of $5.85 million.

In summary, with some advanced planning, it is possible to reduce estate taxes, avoid probate, set forth your wishes, and protect your heirs from creditors, ex-spouses and estate taxes. Remember, every year taxes change so if you need estate tax help, call us today to speak with an estate attorney.

TO THE EXTENT THIS WEBSITE CONTAINS TAX MATTERS, IT IS NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN TO BE USED AND CANNOT BE USED BY A TAXPAYER FOR THE PURPOSE OF AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED ON THE TAXPAYER, ACCORDING TO CIRCULAR 230.

Go Forward

Do you want a Free Initial Consultation with an Estate Planning Lawyer?

Call 1-800-564-2707 today.

Mainpage

Home

Bluffdale Utah estate planning lawyer

Estate Planning - It's Just As Much Life As It Is Death Planning

power estate planning

Go Back

I had a potential client call me earlier in the week asking me if he needed a will. The caller wasn't married and had no children or grandchildren. He didn't own any real property. All of his bank accounts had payable on death beneficiaries and he owned minimal personal property. He had the perfect plan; nothing was going to pass through probate so he didn't think he needed a will.

Maybe he doesn't need a will. I didn't know exactly since self-help estate planning frequently leads to mistakes or property that doesn't have the proper designations. In this situation a will is prophylactic. It ensures that if a mistake is made or a beneficiary designation fails, that property passes to the intended recipient.

I turned the discussion from planning for death to what type of planning he had for his life. I asked if he had a power of attorney for finances. His answer was no. "Do you have an advanced health care directive (aka health care power of attorney)?" "No."

The lack of such planning concerned me since I knew he didn't have a significant other or children to care for him if he were unable to care for himself. What would happen to him if he had a stroke or suffered from dementia or Alzheimer's? Perhaps his siblings would step in to care for him - but how? They would have to spend his money to set up a conservatorship and guardianship or other court proceedings. These processes take time and money to set up and are expensive to administer.

To help deal with his finances he could execute a springing power of attorney for finances that would give a sibling or trusted relative the ability to manage his finances if he became incapacitated and unable to do so. It's called a springing power of attorney because it only becomes effective upon incapacity. The power of attorney can provide broad powers and sets forth detailed instructions concerning what the designated agent can and cannot do on the individual's behalf. More importantly, it would allow the caller to designate who he wanted to manage his finances - not a judge. Drafting and executing a power of attorney in this situation is relatively inexpensive when compared to the cost of setting up and maintaining a conservatorship.

In Oregon, an advance health care directive would assist the caller by designating a health care agent to make health care decisions on his behalf when he's unable to. It would potentially eliminate the need for guardianship proceedings. The representative can make decisions based on directions that are left in the directive. Among the decisions the representative can make is whether to withhold or remove life support, food or hydration. The advance heath care directive does not authorize euthanasia, assisted suicide or any overt action to end the person's life.

This example is a part of the problem with self-help planning. Although the caller was very thorough with his death planning he didn't give any thought to his life. In this caller's case, life planning was much more important than death planning, but he hadn't given it any thought.

Give us a call if you need additional information or to prepare your estate plan.

Go Forward

Do you want a Free Initial Consultation with an Estate Planning Lawyer?

Call 1-800-564-2707 today.

Mainpage

Home

Bluffdale Salt Lake County UT subchapter s estate planning

Estate Planning - It's Just As Much Life As It Is Death Planning

estate planning for 80 year old

Go Back

There are numerous estate planning issues that arise during a separation or divorce. If you're considering divorce, make sure you've adequately addressed these issues and avoid significant consequences.

The first issue is to immediately revoke any powers of attorney that grant your spouse powers over your health care or financial decisions. If you do not revoke these powers of attorney, your ex-spouse will remain your agent despite your divorce. Just imagine your ex-spouse making your health care decisions or continuing to have access to your financial accounts even after your divorce.

If you do not have a health care power of attorney or financial power of attorney, or after you revoke your existing power of attorney, you should create a new one. You may do this before, during, or after your divorce. If your divorce is pending, you probably do not want your soon to be ex-spouse having any type of decision making power over you or your assets. However, if you do not appoint someone else, your spouse will likely serve as the "default" agent if one is needed.

The next thing to consider is your Will. If you already have a Will, revise it. Chances are that your current Will provides for everything to go to your spouse. Once your divorce is final, any bequests to your spouse are nullified. Still, if you do not change your Will, such bequests will be granted if you die before your divorce is final. You cannot completely disinherit your spouse through a Will because State law provides for minimum amounts to a spouse, which is called "taking against the Will". Still you can limit what your spouse receives to the statutory amounts.

Also, there is a good chance that your spouse is named as your Personal Representative (or Executor). Even after your divorce is final, this designation will remain valid. Finally, any bequests made to in-laws will remain valid despite your divorce. Often there is a provision in Wills that provides that in the event your spouse does not survive you and there are no other beneficiaries under your Will, your assets are divided evenly between your heirs at law and your spouse's heirs at law. So, you may have a bequest to your in-laws and not even realize it.

You may also want to consider appointing a guardian for any minor children. In almost all cases, your spouse will continue to have parental rights and will receive full custody of your children upon your death. However, if there is a valid reason, such as abuse or drug addiction, why your spouse should not receive custody you should identify those reasons in your Will and name the person(s) you wish to have custody. Also, if your ex-spouse predeceases you, your Will should control who receives custody.

Also, you should establish a trust through your Will (called a testamentary trust) to control assets left to minor or disabled children. That way, you can decide who makes the decisions over those assets until your children are old enough to receive them outright. If you do not establish a trust and appoint a trustee, your ex-spouse will likely have control over any assets left to your children. And, although the assets are supposed to be used for the children's benefit, there is no practical way of controlling or checking that that is what really happens.

You should also consider a Revocable Trust. If you have one already, revise it to remove powers and gifts given to ex-spouse. Unlike a Will, any gifts given to an ex-spouse through a trust remain valid despite your divorce. Likewise, if your spouse is named as your successor trustee, that appointment remains valid despite your divorce.

There is also a benefit to having a Revocable Trust rather than a Will. In some states, you can completely disinherit a spouse through a revocable trust. The reasoning is that the statutes that grant your spouse a minimum amount of your assets only apply to your probate estate. However, any assets that are placed in trust during your lifetime are not subject to probate. Therefore, if you title all of your individual assets in your trust, you can keep your spouse from receiving anything of yours even if you die before your divorce is final. It can also serve as an ongoing trust after your death to hold assets for your children without your spouse having control or decision making ability.

Additionally, you should review and update any beneficiary designations on life insurance policies, retirement plans, etc. You may not be able to make some of these changes until your divorce is final. For most retirement accounts, your spouse has to sign an authorization for you to appoint someone else as your beneficiary. You may also be prohibited by the court from making changes while your divorce is pending. Just don't forget to make the changes once your divorce is final.

Finally, you should re-title any assets held jointly with your spouse. For many assets (such as house, car, joint investments, etc.), this may need to be done after your divorce is final. However, you can open your own bank and investment accounts at any time.

Go Forward

Do you want a Free Initial Consultation with an Estate Planning Lawyer?

Call 1-800-564-2707 today.

Mainpage

Home

Blanding San Juan County UT estate planning 2nd marriage

Estate Planning - Do You Need an Estate Plan?

estate planning help

Go Back

Estate Planning is not something that everyone wants to think about.  But it's an important thing to consider if you have a significant amount of property or wealth.  Even if you only have a small amount of wealth, you want to make sure that if you pass on, your property goes to the right people in your life.

Without the proper planning this may not happen.  Let's say for example you have no children and have yet to be married.  Let's say also that you spend all of your time working with a children's charity, and that if you did pass on you would want your money to go to this group. 

Without the proper planning, your money could go to your closest surviving family member.  This could be a sister that you don't get along with or a cousin you never knew.  If you know where you want your money to go, then estate planning should be a top priority. 

Nobody likes to think about death.  When you start to think about estate planning, you start to think about how you might die.  It's a sad thing to think about for many people.  But you should try your best to stay strong so that those that you love can get what you would've wanted them to have.

Another way to approach the issue is to do it with an experienced company.  Estate planning companies with experience dealing with this sort of thing can make the process much easier.  They know it's hard to think about these matters, so they make the questioning process as brief as possible for you.  Working with a professional in the field will make the whole process much easier.

You can do some shopping around to find the right company.  Your estate planning choices are some of the most important choices you will have to make in your lifetime.  You want to make sure that you choose the right company to handle them.

It is important to note that the estate planning process doesn't have to take a long time.  You generally know how you would like things to be worked out before you begin the process.  Your estate planner will just help to make your words legally binding, and remind you of issues you might have forgotten.

Go Forward

Do you want a Free Initial Consultation with an Estate Planning Lawyer?

Call 1-800-564-2707 today.

Mainpage

Home

Blanding Utah estate planning expert

Estate Planning and Trusts

estate planning needs

Go Back

If you're reading this article, it's probably not for entertainment value. And if you're reading for entertainment, then you're either a masochist or you're actually interested in what I have to say. It could be both, I guess. Whatever the reason, estate planning is an important topic, regardless of your station in life.

So what does it mean to have an estate plan? The better question is: why does it matter? This is not easy stuff. It deals with death and dying and the future. Of course, nobody wants to think about this stuff. But unfortunately, it's the pink elephant in the room. And it's not all that bad, actually.

Generally, an estate plan is a set of instructions that spell out how your property should be managed and distributed during your life and after death. The attorney (yours truly) is basically a conduit that channels your wishes onto paper in a way that make sense and have the most effect. Okay, maybe it's not that simple, but this should give you some idea. The estate plan should be a reflection of your life and vision. And don't confuse the word "estate" with a gated 8000 square foot villa with your initials on the entry gate. Your estate is all that you own in real estate and other assets.

At one point or another, most of us who own property think about what will happen to our property when we die. We think about stuff like, "Who will get my 1984 Honda Civic?" That's a legitimate concern. Nobody is going to want it, but the concern is no less legitimate. But what if you become disabled? And what happens when you get old and feeble minded? There may come a time where we will live out our lives without sufficient mental and/or physical capacity to manage our own affairs. Look, we all know or knew someone who started to "lose it." We can all remember thinking this or saying something like, "hey, is it me, or is Uncle Joe beginning to lose it?"

Enter the estate plan. The estate plan deals with the management of your property and financial affairs. There are two main types of estate plans: one is built around a Will and the other around a Revocable Living Trust. Each has it pros and cons. But as long as you have your wits about you, you can always make changes to the plan along the way. That being said, it's important to have an estate plan in place now because you don't know when you might become the "Uncle Joe."

THE WILL

A Will is the most common document used to specify how an estate should be handled after death. The person or entity designated to receive your property under the Will is called a Beneficiary. The person whose property is to be disposed by the Will is the Testator or Testatrix.

Like a Trust, the Will can set out different instructions, such as who gets certain property or who will be the guardian of Testator's minor child in the event that no parent is alive. It can be used to disinherit someone. It can set conditions on inheritance, such as the requirement that the Beneficiary first reach the age or 25 or graduate from college.

And then there's the dreaded P word - PROBATE. There's no getting around it. When a person dies and leaves property in a Will, probate is the legal proceeding that is used to wind up his or her legal and financial affairs. It's best described as a court-supervised process by where assets are gathered, valued, and distributed according to the Testator's last wishes as stated in the Will.

Probate proceedings are held in Superior Court for the county in which the Testator lived. The Executor (the person who administers the estate) is responsible for protecting a deceased person's property until all debts and taxes have been paid, and seeing that what's left is transferred to those who are entitled to it. Their job includes making an inventory of the estate's assets, locating creditors, paying bills, filing tax returns, and managing the estate assets. Finally, when this is all done, a petition is filed with the court requesting a distribution to the Beneficiaries. The whole process can take many months and sometimes years to complete.

As you can imagine, probate can also be very expensive. The Probate Code sets the maximum amount that attorneys and personal representatives (i.e. executors, administrators, etc.) can charge. As of 2016, the fees are four percent of the first $100,000 of the estate, three percent of the next $100,000, two percent of the next $800,000, one percent of the next $9,000,000, and one-half percent of the next $15,000,000. On top of that, a probate referee is appointed to appraise all of the non-cash items. This person usually takes one percent of the total assets appraised. All of this can add up very quickly. Although it's safe to say that most of us will probably not die with an estate valued at $15 million, the probate process can easily reduce the size of the estate by tens of thousands of dollars.

And of course there's the privacy issue, or lack thereof. When a Will is admitted to probate it becomes a matter of public record, including the details of what your assets are and who's in line to get them. Some may have legitimate reasons for following the probate matter, like a beneficiary's creditor who's looking to collect. Other unscrupulous types may want to know who to bamboozle.

THE REVOCABLE LIVING TRUST

A Living Trust is established with a document, usually a Declaration of Trust or a Trust Agreement. It's basically a relationship whereby property (real or personal, tangible or intangible) is held by one party for the benefit of another. A Living Trust conventionally arises when property is transferred to a separate Trustee to hold for the Beneficiary. However, that's not always necessary.

The person creating the Living Trust is called the Settlor or Trustor (these are synonymous). The Settlor appoints a Trustee to manage the Trust assets. The Trusee holds legal title to property for the benefit of another, also known as the Beneficiary. Although the Beneficiary does not own legal title to the property, he or she is said to own beneficial title. So you can imagine that the Trustee cannot do anything with the property that does not benefit the Beneficiary, like sell some off and pocket the money. It may be easier to think about a Trust like a Corporation. The Trustee is the CEO and the Beneficiaries are the shareholders. And it's not uncommon for Trustee to also be a Beneficiary, although it's advisable that a Co-Trustee be named as well.

A Living Trust should usually be accompanied by a Last Will and Testament, also known as a "pour-over will." The Will should say that property that is outside of the Trust is to be distributed to the Trustee of the Trust when the Testator dies. As long as the property outside of the Trust is valued at less than $100,000, probate can be avoided. The benefit is that property not previously placed in the Trust will get "poured" into it. Even if the property exceeds $100,000 and has to go through probate, it will eventually be distributed according to the instructions of the deceased instead of being distributed according to California law. It may also be a good idea to name the same person to be both the Executor of the Will and the Trustee of the Trust, since he or she will dealing with the same property.

WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN?

So what's the point of all of this mumbo jumbo? Well, just that it's easy to overlook the necessity of a proper estate plan. A Living Trust helps to protect you, your assets, and those people and/or entities who you want to leave your assets to when you're gone.

A good reason to create a Living Trust is to keep your estate plan private. Unlike a Will and probate, the Living Trust is a private contract between you (the Settlor) and the Trustee. It does not need to be filed with the county. The only way it can become public is if a dispute arises and someone files a lawsuit, which is possible.

Another major benefit of a Living Trust is that it has the ability to protect you in the event that you become disabled. The Trust can specify how your incapacity should be determined, how you should be taken care of if you're deemed disabled, and who will be able to manage your property if you can't. A Living Trust is written so that your Trustee can automatically jump into the driver's seat if you become ill or incapacitated. This will keep you and your property outside of court-supervised guardianship or conservatorship. The more you can keep the court out of your life and affairs, the better.

A Living Trust also allows you to dispense with your property in the manner that you choose. For example, many families have a child who has or had some problems in life. This may range from physical challenges to addiction to partying in Las Vegas with prostitutes every weekend. A Living Trust can provide for financial support to others without giving them direct control of the trust property.

Finally, a Living Trust makes it possible to avoid having to go through probate. How? It's simple - the property is titled in the name of the Trust when you die. Your Trust does not check out just because you do. Only those assets that are titled in your name at the time of death go through probate.

Go Forward

Do you want a Free Initial Consultation with an Estate Planning Lawyer?

Call 1-800-564-2707 today.

Mainpage

Home

Big Water Kane County Utah power estate planning

Estate Planning Overview, 101

estate planning review

Go Back

To many, estate planning may seem like a process that only the rich have to deal with. You may believe that unless you have a large amount of money, property, or land, you do not have an "estate". In fact, anyone who has anything to his or her name, whether it is a car, a house, land, bank account, or merely a few heirloom possessions, has an estate. Estate planning is designed to give you the chance to have your property and possessions passed on to the people that you wish to have them, instead of leaving the decision up to the state. Without planning, your property could possibly be passed on to certain people or in a certain way that you do not approve of.

Don't Let the Courts Control Your Estate

Creating a will through estate planning allows you to communicate your wishes to your family even after you are gone. A will is a legal document that specifies who you would like to leave your property to. These people are your beneficiaries. It also allows you to specify how you would like your property to be passed on. Perhaps you always expected that you would give your house to your daughter, who lives close by. Or maybe you intend to pass on your treasured tools and garage equipment to your nephew who is a mechanic. You may have already made promises to loved ones to pass on some of your treasured belongings once you pass away.

While you may have made promises to relatives or communicated all of your intentions to your spouse or children, without a will your words of intent will not carry any weight. When you pass away with no will, the court will divide your property according to state intestacy laws. This means that your property may be divided among your spouse, children, and other family members without any regard for your specific wishes, because there was no written proof of what you wanted. It may just be a major misunderstanding on your part, but to the loved ones to whom you made promises, it may seem like scorn and betrayal. They may be left behind thinking that you didn't care enough about them to take the time to write a will.

How a Probate Lawyer Can Help

Don't let your promises and intentions to your family go unfulfilled. Consider talking to a probate lawyer about how you can draft a valid will and protect your estate and personal wishes. A probate lawyer can walk you through the process of drafting a will, creating trusts, taking care of outstanding debts, dealing with greedy or disagreeable relatives, and more. An experienced probate lawyer can serve as your legal advisor to ensure that your intentions are communicated properly and that your property is passed on according to your wishes.

For More Information

To learn more about estate planning and protecting your property from state intestacy, please visit us or give us a call today.

Go Forward

Do you want a Free Initial Consultation with an Estate Planning Lawyer?

Call 1-800-564-2707 today.

Mainpage

Home

Big Water Utah estate planning in your 30s

Estate Planning - Major Aspects of Personal Finance Management

estate planning elder law

Go Back

An estate plan is a document consisting of multiple trivial elements such as the living will or healthcare proxy or also known as medical power of attorney and assignment of power of attorney. Some people also include trust into their wills. Once you merge all these things together, you have to get it certified under the legal laws of both the federal and state governments. Basically everyone needs to have a will, to inform the world where you wish to allocate your assets to after you leave the world. In fact, it is the best way to consign guardians for your children.

Those dying without a proper estate planning, having no will to display upon their deaths are known to be dying intestate. However, this implies that your heirs need to struggle through several legal procedures in order to take over the assets. Having a trust does not guarantee the ownership transfer; it is insufficient because you still need a will to be in charge of your trust to inherit them to your beneficiaries. In addition, it is advisable that you discuss the plan with your children to avoid future discord, especially if you know your heirs may come in strong disagreement with one another.

To begin with your estate plan, you have to garner all appropriate information such as insurance policies, investments, real estate or business interests, financial condition, and any retirement savings. Then ponder to yourself several questions like who you wish to assign to the job of handling your financial affairs if you happen to be incapacitated. Then consider whom you intend to inherit your assets to and give thoughts into plotting the responsibility of your medical decisions should you be bedridden and unconscious.

Some people think that having infinite amount of money indicates a good estate planning but this is not always the case. Leaving all your properties and cash to your spouse does not imply it will be exempted from estate tax because you will instead increase his or her taxable estate. Subsequently, if your spouse leaves the money to your children upon his or her death, they will end up paying higher estate taxes. At all cases, having a will is the best item to solve all hassles.

Go Forward

Do you want a Free Initial Consultation with an Estate Planning Lawyer?

Call 1-800-564-2707 today.

Mainpage

Home

Bicknell Wayne County Utah estate planning tax deductible

Estate Planning - How to Preserve Your Wealth

4 estate planning documents

Go Back

If you're reading this article, it's probably not for entertainment value. And if you're reading for entertainment, then you're either a masochist or you're actually interested in what I have to say. It could be both, I guess. Whatever the reason, estate planning is an important topic, regardless of your station in life.

So what does it mean to have an estate plan? The better question is: why does it matter? This is not easy stuff. It deals with death and dying and the future. Of course, nobody wants to think about this stuff. But unfortunately, it's the pink elephant in the room. And it's not all that bad, actually.

Generally, an estate plan is a set of instructions that spell out how your property should be managed and distributed during your life and after death. The attorney (yours truly) is basically a conduit that channels your wishes onto paper in a way that make sense and have the most effect. Okay, maybe it's not that simple, but this should give you some idea. The estate plan should be a reflection of your life and vision. And don't confuse the word "estate" with a gated 8000 square foot villa with your initials on the entry gate. Your estate is all that you own in real estate and other assets.

At one point or another, most of us who own property think about what will happen to our property when we die. We think about stuff like, "Who will get my 1984 Honda Civic?" That's a legitimate concern. Nobody is going to want it, but the concern is no less legitimate. But what if you become disabled? And what happens when you get old and feeble minded? There may come a time where we will live out our lives without sufficient mental and/or physical capacity to manage our own affairs. Look, we all know or knew someone who started to "lose it." We can all remember thinking this or saying something like, "hey, is it me, or is Uncle Joe beginning to lose it?"

Enter the estate plan. The estate plan deals with the management of your property and financial affairs. There are two main types of estate plans: one is built around a Will and the other around a Revocable Living Trust. Each has it pros and cons. But as long as you have your wits about you, you can always make changes to the plan along the way. That being said, it's important to have an estate plan in place now because you don't know when you might become the "Uncle Joe."

THE WILL

A Will is the most common document used to specify how an estate should be handled after death. The person or entity designated to receive your property under the Will is called a Beneficiary. The person whose property is to be disposed by the Will is the Testator or Testatrix.

Like a Trust, the Will can set out different instructions, such as who gets certain property or who will be the guardian of Testator's minor child in the event that no parent is alive. It can be used to disinherit someone. It can set conditions on inheritance, such as the requirement that the Beneficiary first reach the age or 25 or graduate from college.

And then there's the dreaded P word - PROBATE. There's no getting around it. When a person dies and leaves property in a Will, probate is the legal proceeding that is used to wind up his or her legal and financial affairs. It's best described as a court-supervised process by where assets are gathered, valued, and distributed according to the Testator's last wishes as stated in the Will.

Probate proceedings are held in Superior Court for the county in which the Testator lived. The Executor (the person who administers the estate) is responsible for protecting a deceased person's property until all debts and taxes have been paid, and seeing that what's left is transferred to those who are entitled to it. Their job includes making an inventory of the estate's assets, locating creditors, paying bills, filing tax returns, and managing the estate assets. Finally, when this is all done, a petition is filed with the court requesting a distribution to the Beneficiaries. The whole process can take many months and sometimes years to complete.

As you can imagine, probate can also be very expensive. The Probate Code sets the maximum amount that attorneys and personal representatives (i.e. executors, administrators, etc.) can charge. As of 2016, the fees are four percent of the first $100,000 of the estate, three percent of the next $100,000, two percent of the next $800,000, one percent of the next $9,000,000, and one-half percent of the next $15,000,000. On top of that, a probate referee is appointed to appraise all of the non-cash items. This person usually takes one percent of the total assets appraised. All of this can add up very quickly. Although it's safe to say that most of us will probably not die with an estate valued at $15 million, the probate process can easily reduce the size of the estate by tens of thousands of dollars.

And of course there's the privacy issue, or lack thereof. When a Will is admitted to probate it becomes a matter of public record, including the details of what your assets are and who's in line to get them. Some may have legitimate reasons for following the probate matter, like a beneficiary's creditor who's looking to collect. Other unscrupulous types may want to know who to bamboozle.

THE REVOCABLE LIVING TRUST

A Living Trust is established with a document, usually a Declaration of Trust or a Trust Agreement. It's basically a relationship whereby property (real or personal, tangible or intangible) is held by one party for the benefit of another. A Living Trust conventionally arises when property is transferred to a separate Trustee to hold for the Beneficiary. However, that's not always necessary.

The person creating the Living Trust is called the Settlor or Trustor (these are synonymous). The Settlor appoints a Trustee to manage the Trust assets. The Trusee holds legal title to property for the benefit of another, also known as the Beneficiary. Although the Beneficiary does not own legal title to the property, he or she is said to own beneficial title. So you can imagine that the Trustee cannot do anything with the property that does not benefit the Beneficiary, like sell some off and pocket the money. It may be easier to think about a Trust like a Corporation. The Trustee is the CEO and the Beneficiaries are the shareholders. And it's not uncommon for Trustee to also be a Beneficiary, although it's advisable that a Co-Trustee be named as well.

A Living Trust should usually be accompanied by a Last Will and Testament, also known as a "pour-over will." The Will should say that property that is outside of the Trust is to be distributed to the Trustee of the Trust when the Testator dies. As long as the property outside of the Trust is valued at less than $100,000, probate can be avoided. The benefit is that property not previously placed in the Trust will get "poured" into it. Even if the property exceeds $100,000 and has to go through probate, it will eventually be distributed according to the instructions of the deceased instead of being distributed according to California law. It may also be a good idea to name the same person to be both the Executor of the Will and the Trustee of the Trust, since he or she will dealing with the same property.

WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN?

So what's the point of all of this mumbo jumbo? Well, just that it's easy to overlook the necessity of a proper estate plan. A Living Trust helps to protect you, your assets, and those people and/or entities who you want to leave your assets to when you're gone.

A good reason to create a Living Trust is to keep your estate plan private. Unlike a Will and probate, the Living Trust is a private contract between you (the Settlor) and the Trustee. It does not need to be filed with the county. The only way it can become public is if a dispute arises and someone files a lawsuit, which is possible.

Another major benefit of a Living Trust is that it has the ability to protect you in the event that you become disabled. The Trust can specify how your incapacity should be determined, how you should be taken care of if you're deemed disabled, and who will be able to manage your property if you can't. A Living Trust is written so that your Trustee can automatically jump into the driver's seat if you become ill or incapacitated. This will keep you and your property outside of court-supervised guardianship or conservatorship. The more you can keep the court out of your life and affairs, the better.

A Living Trust also allows you to dispense with your property in the manner that you choose. For example, many families have a child who has or had some problems in life. This may range from physical challenges to addiction to partying in Las Vegas with prostitutes every weekend. A Living Trust can provide for financial support to others without giving them direct control of the trust property.

Finally, a Living Trust makes it possible to avoid having to go through probate. How? It's simple - the property is titled in the name of the Trust when you die. Your Trust does not check out just because you do. Only those assets that are titled in your name at the time of death go through probate.

Go Forward

Do you want a Free Initial Consultation with an Estate Planning Lawyer?

Call 1-800-564-2707 today.

Mainpage

Home