Estate Planning Forms and Tools

Estate Planning Forms and Tools

Although no one likes to think about falling ill or passing away, it’s important to plan for it. Preparing a will allows you to make sure your money and property goes to the people you want them to go to. It’s also important to let your loved ones know your wishes if you ever unable to communicate your wishes. The process of estate planning is the way to plan for death or incapacitation. In this section you can find samples for various estate planning tools, such as a sample will, a sample health care power of attorney, and a sample living will. There is also a helpful estate planning checklist and a questionnaire to prepare you for meeting with an estate planning attorney.

Contents of a Basic Will

While there isn’t a standard, legally foolproof will, there are some basic elements that pretty much every will contains. A will should begin by making it clear that it’s meant to be a will and include the full name and residence of the testator (the person who is making the will). It’s also always a good idea to include a statement revoking any previous wills. The will should include to whom you would like to leave your money and property. If you would like to leave specific belongings or amounts of money to various people, you can list these wishes in the will. If, on the contrary, you simply want to leave everything to one person, you could make a general statement conveying that information. A will should also designate an executor to handle estate administration. It’s usually a good idea to include an alternative executor, in case the original executor can’t or won’t take the responsibility of being the executor. Finally, the testator must sign and date the will. While these are the basic elements of a will, it’s important to check the laws of your state to find out the requirements for drafting a will in your state.

Living Wills and Powers of Attorney

All of the states in the U.S. have laws concerning the ability of people to make decisions about their medical care before there is a need for treatment. A living will or advanced directive is a document that allows people to explain the type and duration of medical care they would like to receive if they are in a situation where they can’t communicate those wishes. Each state has its own laws regarding what can be included in a living will, which is why it’s important to check the laws in your jurisdiction or consult with an attorney when drafting a living will.

It’s worth mentioning that a living will and a health care power of attorney concern similar matters, but are very different. As previously mentioned, a living will explains the wishes of the person in the event that he or she can’t communicate the wishes him or herself. A health care power of an attorney can also have the same information as a living will, but it also designates a person to have the legal ability to make medical decision on a person’s behalf. The health care power of attorney is only valid in the event that the person who makes the document is unable to make medical decisions for him or herself.

Hiring an Estate Planning Attorney

Wills can be fairly easy to draft if a person doesn’t have very many assets. However, if you have a lot of assets or a complex situation, you should probably hire an estate planning lawyer to help you with your will. Regardless of the size of your estate, if you have questions or concerns about estate planning, you might want to consult with an attorney.

Free Consultation with a Utah Estate Lawyer

If you are here, you probably have an estate issue you need help with, call Ascent Law for your free estate law consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Ascent Law LLC

4.9 stars – based on 67 reviews


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Durable Financial Power of Attorney

Durable Financial Power of Attorney

The durable financial power of attorney is simply a way to allow someone else to manage your finances in the event that you become incapacitated and are unable to make those decisions yourself. The power is granted in a document, and is not only useful for you, but can really help your family in times of crisis. More precisely, it grants someone legal authority to act on your behalf for financial issues. This person’s official name depends on the state you live in, but is often referred to as your agent or as an attorney-in-fact.

What Can Someone Do With a Durable Financial Power of Attorney?

You can set the limits of your agent’s power, granting as much or as little power as you think is appropriate. When deciding whether to set limits, consider the kind of tasks your agent will likely be asked to perform:

  • Paying your bills
  • Paying your taxes
  • Paying medical expenses
  • Managing your real estate assets
  • Accessing your financial accounts
  • Investing on your behalf
  • Collecting any retirement benefits
  • Transferring and selling your assets
  • Buying insurance for you
  • Operating your small business
  • Hiring someone to represent you

Your agent cannot do whatever he or she wants to do, but must act in your best interests. One area of potential conflict to keep in mind is in regards to paying for medical expenses. Often, people also name a medical agent who can make medical decisions for them. If your financial and medical agent aren’t the same person or disagree on medical care, the financial agent can make receiving medical care difficult.

Creating a Durable Financial Power of Attorney

Most states have simple forms to fill out to make someone your financial agent. Most states don’t require that you use these forms, but it is always a good idea to do so.

Generally, the document must be signed, witnessed and notarized. If your agent will have to deal with real estate assets, some states require you to put the document on file in the local land records office. Finally, many banks have their own forms, and while not strictly necessary, it will make the process much easier if your bank knows who your financial agent is.

When To Begin A Power of Attorney

The first distinction to keep in mind when you are granting a financial power of attorney is whether or not to make it “durable”. Durability simply means whether the power is always there, but it has significant consequences that may not be apparent. The best way to illustrate this is by example.

For example, if you grant it but don’t make it durable, then when you are incapacitated, your agent will have the power to make financial decisions as you would expect. However, if you recover, that power is now gone. This means though, that if you are then incapacitated again, that person is no longer your financial agent since the power was given but then extinguished by your recovery. So decide whether you want to make the power durable or not.

Generally, it goes into effect the second you sign it. If you do not want this, you should create a “springing” financial power of attorney. This means that the power is not granted to your agent until you are incapacitated (and certified as such by a doctor). Springing powers can be durable or not.

When Does it Stop Working?

The financial power of attorney is automatically extinguished upon your death. That means that your agent can only make financial decisions for you while you are alive and incapacitated. To deal with financial matters after your death, you need to name an executor in your will. Other ways it can be extinguished include divorce, the event that your named agent is unavailable, or if a court invalidates your document or you revoke it. Because there are many ways for the power to end that you can’t plan on, it is helpful to name alternate agents.

Free Consultation with an Estate Planning Lawyer

If you are here, you probably have an estate issue you need help with, call Ascent Law for your free estate law consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Ascent Law LLC

4.9 stars – based on 67 reviews


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Estate Planning Terms

Estate Planning Terms

Terminology related to probate law can be confusing and downright archaic. No wonder. The first mentions of estate planning and probate court come from medieval times, dating back to the days when the United States didn’t exist. Our laws go all the way back to England in the year 1000! Following is an explanation of commonly used words and phrases related to estate planning and probate.

AB Trust – A trust designed to make sure the personal estate tax exemption of each spouse (currently $1.5 million) is used to the fullest extent possible, while allowing the surviving spouse to have use of the assets of the deceased spouse during the remainder of the surviving spouse’s lifetime.

Administrator – A court-appointed person who manages the estate of a deceased person who has died without a will.

Attorney-in-Fact – An individual designated in a power of attorney to act as the agent of the person who executed the document.

Basic Will – A will that distributes everything to your spouse, if living, otherwise to your children when they reach the age of majority (18 years old).

Beneficiary – A person who receives funds, property, or other benefits from a will, contract, or insurance policy.

Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care – A written document in which an individual designates another person to make health care and health-related decisions in the event that the individual becomes incapacitated.

Durable Power of Attorney for Property – A written document in which an individual designates another person to make his or her property and property-related decisions in the event that the individual becomes incapacitated and is unable to do so.

Estate – An individual’s property and assets — including real estate, bank accounts, life insurance policies, stocks, and personal property such as automobiles and jewelry.

Estate Tax – A tax that is imposed at a person’s death, on the transfers of some types of property from their estate to heirs and beneficiaries.

Executor – A person named in a will who is authorized to manage the estate of the deceased person. The executor will collect the property, pay off any debts, and distribute property and assets according to the terms of the will.

Fiduciary – A person or institution that is legally responsible for the management, investment, and distribution of funds; i.e. the trustee identified in a trust.

Grantor – A person who transfers assets to another, usually into a trust.

Guardian – An individual with the legal authority to care for another, usually a minor child.

Incapacity – A person’s inability to act on his or her own behalf, i.e. the “sound mind” requirement for drafting a valid will. A court makes a finding of incapacity.

Inter vivos trust – A trust that is created during a person’s lifetime, which holds property for the benefit of another.

Intestate – A term used when a person dies without a will.

Joint Tenancy With Right of Survivorship – A title that is often placed on co-owned property. At the death of one owner, the other owner will be legally entitled to sole possession of the property, regardless of what provisions are made in a will. Spouses often use this form of ownership.

Living Trust – A revocable trust established during a grantor’s lifetime that is used for the placement of some or all of the grantor’s property. In a situation involving a married couple, a basic living trust does not effectively use the personal estate tax exemption of either spouse (the amount of a deceased person’s estate that may pass to his or her heirs without estate taxes, currently $1.5 million). Because of this deficiency of a basic living trust, an AB Trust (discussed above) is often recommended instead to married couples with substantial assets.

Living Will – A binding legal document that sets forth a person’s wishes regarding the use of life-sustaining treatment in the event that he or she becomes terminally ill or permanently unconscious.

Marital Deduction – A federal tax deduction that allows one spouse to pass his or her estate to the other spouse without having to pay estate or gift taxes.

No Will – A decedent dies without a valid will, so that his or her estate passes to heirs based on the laws of descent and distribution of his or her state.

Pour-Over Will – A will that distributes everything to a trust.

Power of Appointment – A legal right given to a person in order to allow him or her to decide how to distribute a deceased person’s property. A “general” power of appointment places no restrictions on the named person, while a “limited” or “special” power of appointment places restrictions on who may receive distributions.

Power of Attorney – A written document that gives one person the legal authority to act on behalf of another person.

Probate – A process whereby a court reviews a will to make sure that it is authentic, and allows others to make legal challenges to the will.

QTIP Trust – A trust designed to permit a spouse to transfer assets to his/her trust while still maintaining control over the ultimate disposition of those assets at the spouse’s death. QTIP Trusts are particularly popular in situations where a person is married for a second time but has children from a first marriage for whom he/she wants to reserve assets.

State Death or Inheritance Taxes – Taxes that may be imposed by the state where a deceased person lived, or where his or her property is located after death.

Trust – A written document providing that property be held by one (the “trustee”) for the benefit of another (the “beneficiary”). A trust may be created during the grantor’s lifetime or after his or her death.

Trustee – A person named in a trust document who will manage property owned by the trust, and distribute the trust income or property according to the terms of the trust document. A trustee may be an individual or a business.

Will – A document that directs how property shall be distributed upon a deceased persons death.

Free Consultation with a Utah Estate Lawyer

If you are here, you probably have an estate plannning or probate law issue you need help with, call Ascent Law for your free estate law consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Ascent Law LLC

4.9 stars – based on 67 reviews


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