Salt Lake City 84104 Salt Lake Co. UT estate planning vehicles

Estate Planning Overview, 101

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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.

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Salt Lake City 84103 Salt Lake Co. UT estate planning taxes

Estate Planning - Consider Your Options Before it is Too Late

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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.

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

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Salt Lake City 84102 Salt Lake Co. UT estate planning s corporation shareholders

Estate Planning Issues During and After Divorce

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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.

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Salt Lake City 84101 Salt Lake Co. UT 9 estate planning pitfalls to avoid

Estate Planning - Major Aspects of Personal Finance Management

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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.

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