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Utah estate planning tax deductible

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

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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.

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Estate Planning Issues During and After Divorce

7 steps of estate planning

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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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Estate Planning: What to Think About Before Meeting Your Lawyer

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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.

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Estate Planning: Fun For The Entire Family

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Here are four key elements of estate planning that can not only help to preserve the value of your estate but also to ensure the efficient administration and disposition of your estate assets.

1. A will is the cornerstone for an estate plan and deals with all matters regarding the final distribution of your estate assets. A will is a legal document that speaks on your behalf upon your demise. If you do not have a will, then the courts will decide the manner in which your estate assets will be distributed - and this may not be in accordance with your wishes.

2. A trust is a legal document that can be designed to address any unique situation that you may have in regard to the distribution of your estate assets. For example, a spendthrift trust can be set up to protect the interests of a beneficiary who is not good at handling money. A trust can be set up for the protection and administration of assets for minor children, a spouse or for any other beneficiary.

Creative use of wills and trusts can not only protect the interests of your heirs, but also can help reduce the impact of taxes and probate fees. An estate planning attorney can help with the proper legal drafting of wills and trusts. But before you engage the services of an attorney, it is highly recommended that you should do the essential ground work first - this will save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars in legal and accounting fees.

3. Your estate executor will need to know the location of your assets and vital documents. If you do not have a proper record of your assets and vital documents, valuable assets can be "lost" during the estate settlement process. For example, there are billions of dollars in unclaimed money currently held by the government waiting to be claimed by the beneficiaries of deceased relatives.

4. It is vitally important to understand that most estates usually comprise of assets that are not readily convertible into cash. For example, real estate, long term financial investments, business interests, rental properties and other assets. In other words, most estate assets are generally illiquid.

Without proper funding arrangements it is highly probable that valuable estate assets may have to be liquidated at fire sale prices in order to pay taxes and other estate settlement expenses. These expenses can easily amount to thousands and even millions of dollars in the case of larger estates. There is a smart way to fund estate settlement expenses without having to liquidate valuable estate assets by the creative use of life insurance.

By implementing the above estate planning strategies you can ensure that all your affairs are properly organized and depending on the size of your estate, you could potentially save thousands if not millions of dollars. Your heirs will be proud and glad that you made all the proper arrangements and that all your affairs were left in excellent order. To learn more on estate planning please check the resource box below.

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Estate Planning - Consider Your Options Before it is Too Late

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Appropriate estate planning can only be possible with proper appreciation of the major aspects involved in personal finance management process. Efficient estate planning attorney makes it a point realizing these aspects perfectly while making the plan.

Appropriate estate planning involves understanding various aspects of personal finance management well. Multiple aspects of such financial management are involved in the estate planning process. An efficient attorney therefore will always look at these aspects before preparing the estate management. People who are looking for inheritance, insurance and property transfer managements with efficiency will find understanding these aspects extremely useful for the purpose of preparing an all comprehensive estate planning.

Setting goals is extremely essential for preparing the perfect plan. Without the goals clearly determined it may not be possible to prepare plan that would meet all the requirements of the client. Retirement plans are examples of such goal setting. One could plan buying a house for residence after retirement at 25% of the gross income while keeping the residual portion of the income away for future investments, maintenance of the family, and other pursuits. People who are concerned with setting up multiple goals at one time may obtain the assistance of professional expert trust planning attorney that would balance the financial planning with goals set by the client for benefit optimization.

Goals that the client set up for achievement could either be long or short term. In any case setting such financial goals help direct planning. Processes like these involve adequate assessment of the financial and all other aspects of the estate and resources of the estate owner. Experienced and professional estate planning attorney would take care to prepare simplified versions of all the financial statements and legal documents so that there is no room for any confusion in the minds of the clients involved. Ordinarily balance sheets and income statements would be a couple of financial documents that helps the proper assessment of the estate to be planned.

Despite best goal setting and near perfect assessments by the estate lawyer proficient in these deals, best results could only accrue with perfect execution of the plans. One has to be careful about it.

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