Estate planning is a process that involves making advanced plans for end-of-life issues and for property and assets when one passes away. Any person may become sick or hurt, creating a situation where they need nursing care or where tough choices must be made about medical treatment. Every person will eventually pass away, which cause undue problems if no plans could have been made regarding assets and property. Estate planning utilizes legal and financial tools to address the issues that arise in case of illness, incapacity, and death. The planning process is different for everyone, because you may have your own unique goals, like supporting a charity or paying for your child’s college education. A good attorney will listen carefully to you, ask questions that help you to shape the estate planning process, and assist you in using the right tools. An estate planning lawyer is a type of lawyer who through years of mentoring, continuing legal education and experience, understands how to advise clients on getting their affairs in order to prepare for the possibility of mental disability and eventual death.
What an Estate Planning Lawyer Does
• Estate planning doesn’t begin and end with a last will and testament. An attorney specializing in this field will also draft living trusts, develop a plan to mitigate or avoid estate taxes, and work to ensure that your life’s savings and assets are safe from your beneficiaries’ creditors after your death.
• He can prepare power of attorney and health care directives, arranging for someone to take care of your affairs in the event you should ever become mentally incapacitated.
• He can help you avoid guardianship or conservatorship issues if you need someone else to look after your affairs.
Estate Planning Process
It is natural for many people to put off planning their estates. After all, no one wants to anticipate his or her own death. In addition, many people may believe that only the wealthy require estate planning or that all that is involved is tax planning, which can be done later. They may well be wrong on both counts. Your level of wealth and the ultimate tax consequences of your estate become secondary to the planning and care of your family and other heirs. A well-structured estate plan is invaluable. Through it, you can control the distribution of your assets and possessions, as well as name guardians for your children or plan care for other dependents. While the estate planning process can raise some difficult emotional and personal issues, your heirs will be glad you did it, and you will know that your wishes are assured. Your first step should be to assemble a competent, professional estate planning team. Your attorney, financial service professional, insurance agent, bank trust officer, and/or accountant are all possible members of your team, depending on the size and complexity of your estate. They can help you complete an analysis of your current estate by looking at your financial position as of today and helping you analyze your family’s needs for the future.
Hire an Estate Planning Lawyer
When considering if you need to hire an estate planning lawyer, consider this estate planning is serious business. One wrong word or one missing signature can change the entire intent of a will or trust. Aside from this, the reasons listed below should be enough to convince you to go out and find and hire a qualified estate planning attorney to draft your estate planning documents.
• Estate Lawyers Are Necessary Since State Laws Rule Estate Plans: State laws are very specific about what can and can’t be in a will, trust, or medical or financial power of attorney; who can and can’t serve as a personal representative, trustee, health care surrogate or attorney in fact; who can and can’t be a witness to a will, trust, or medical or financial power of attorney; and what formalities must be observed when signing a will, trust, or medical or financial power of attorney. For example, in Utah, a personal representative must either be related to you by blood or marriage or, if not, then a resident of the state. This non-resident, non-relatives simply can’t serve, and in fact, won’t be allowed to serve, in Utah. Working with a qualified estate planning attorney will help you to avoid this kind of simple and yet costly mistake.
• Buyer Must Beware: The old Latin saying, “Caveat Emptor,” or “Buyer Beware,” certainly applies to estate planning. If you think that you’ll be saving a few dollars by using forms found on the internet or in a do-it-yourself book to prepare your estate planning documents, then your family will be in for a rude awakening when they learn that part or all of your will, trust, or medical or financial power of attorney isn’t legally valid or won’t work as you had anticipated. Thousands of dollars will then be spent by your loved ones working with a qualified estate planning attorney after the fact to fix your mistakes.
• Estate Lawyers Can Help Sort out Complex Family or Financial Situations: Take a look at your life and your assets to see if you fit into one or more of the following categories:
You’re in a second (or later) marriage
You own one or more businesses
You own real estate in more than one state
You have a disabled family member
You have minor children
You have problem children
You don’t have any children
You want to leave some or all of your estate to charity
You have substantial assets in 401(k)s and/or IRAs
You were recently divorced
You recently lost a spouse or other family member
You have a taxable estate for federal and/or state estate tax purposes
If one or more of these situations apply to you, then you’ll need the counseling and advice of an experienced estate planning attorney to create your estate planning documents. Otherwise, it may be a probate lawyer and your state’s department of revenue and/or the IRS that will receive the largest chunk of your estate.
Advantages of Estate Planning
Taking care of your family has always been the number one priority in your life, and that isn’t going to change. The best way to make sure they are taken care of after you pass is to establish an estate plan while you are still of sound mind. Here are the advantages of creating an estate plan:
• Provide for your immediate family: The estate plan will provide enough money for your surviving spouse to continue to care for the family. If both you and your spouse pass, an estate plan will name appointed guardians to care for your children.
• Ensure property goes to the right beneficiaries: Your estate plan will outline exactly where your assets are to go in the event of your death. This leaves no questions to be resolved by the courts or cause for family discord.
• Minimize the expenses and taxes: When you take care to create an estate plan, you should be able to keep the cost of transferring any property to your named beneficiaries.
• Ease the burdens of your family: It can be difficult to plan the funeral of a loved one when grieving. When working on your estate plan, you can outline your wishes for funeral arrangements and even set aside funds for them. This takes some of the burden off your family during this difficult time.
• Support a favorite cause: If you are passionate about a local cause or charitable organization, an estate plan can allow you to support them after your passing.
• Plan for any kind of incapacity: Life is unpredictable. If you should ever become mentally or physically incapacitated, an estate plan will outline your wishes regarding life and who will make medical decisions on your behalf.
• Reduce taxes that take place on your estate: By crafting an estate plan, you should be able to minimize the amount of taxes collected on your estate, which results in your beneficiaries keeping more of the money you set aside for them.
• Establish trustees over your estate: You’ll need someone to serve as the executor of your estate to make sure everything is handled properly. Your estate plan will name this person, which will save money and simplify the administration process.
• Provide for those who many need help: Do you have a child who has a disability? Or perhaps you have grandchildren who will be attending college in the future. Through your estate plan, you can set up a special trust to provide funds to support them.
• Ensure a business continues with a succession plan: If you own your own business, you’ll want to establish some kind of plan to keep it going after you pass. An estate plan will name your successor and outline what happens to your interest in the business.
Disadvantages of Estate Planning
• Loss of control: Once an asset is in the irrevocable trust, you no longer have direct control over it. However, in the case of a husband and wife, it is possible to create separate trusts for each, thereby collectively maintaining control. There are many pitfalls with this technique, such as observance of the Reciprocal Trust Doctrine, so this strategy should only be employed with the assistance of a skilled estate planning attorney.
• Fairly Rigid Terms: Irrevocable trusts are not very flexible. Once the terms are established, they can be difficult to change.
• The Three-Year Rule: If you include life insurance in an irrevocable trust and pass away within three years, the proceeds return to your estate and become taxable.
• The Five-Year Rule: If you put assets in an irrevocable trust and need Medicaid within a five-year period, you may have to repay all prior transfers to the trust by covering the costs of a nursing home privately. Only after you have repaid all gifted assets will you be eligible for Medicaid.
Reasons You Need an Estate Plan
While there are a variety of reasons why people decide to meet with an estate planning attorney and create an estate plan, here are the most valuable reasons.
• Avoid Probate: A probate is the process of validating a deceased person’s will and placing a value on their assets, paying their final bills and taxes, and distributing the rest to their beneficiaries. Avoiding probate is by far the most common reason why people seek out the advice of an estate planning attorney. While many have never dealt with probate, they still know one thing: they want to avoid it at all costs. This stems from probate horror stories covered by the media or told by neighbors, friends, or business associates. For the vast majority of people, avoiding probate is a very good reason for creating an estate plan and can be easily achieved.
• Reduce Estate Taxes: The significant loss of one’s estate to the payment of state and federal estate taxes or state inheritance taxes is a great motivator for many people to put an estate plan together. Through the most basic planning, married couples can reduce or even possibly eliminate estate taxes altogether by setting up AB Trusts or ABC Trusts as part of their wills or revocable living trusts. Also, a variety of advanced estate planning techniques can be used by both married couples and individuals to make the estate or inheritance tax bill less burdensome or completely go away.
• Avoid a Mess: Many clients seek the advice of an estate planning attorney after personally experiencing or seeing a close friend or business associate experience a significant waste of time and money due to a loved one’s failure to make an estate plan. Choosing someone to be in charge if you become mentally incapacitated or die and deciding who will get what, when they will get it, and how they will get it will go a long way towards avoiding family fights and costly probate court proceedings.
• Protect Beneficiaries: There are generally two main reasons why people put together an estate plan to protect their beneficiaries: To protect minor beneficiaries, or to protect adult beneficiaries from bad decisions, outside influences, creditor problems, and divorcing spouses. If the beneficiary is a minor, all 50 states have laws that require a guardian or conservator to be appointed to oversee the minor’s needs and finances until the minor becomes a legal adult at age 18 or 21, depending on the laws of the state where the minor lives. You can prevent family discord and costly legal expenses by taking the time to designate a guardian and trustee for your minor beneficiaries. Or, if the beneficiary is already an adult that’s bad at managing money or has an overbearing spouse or partner who you fear will squander the beneficiary’s inheritance or take it in a divorce, you can create an estate plan that will protect the beneficiary.
• Protect Assets: Asset protection planning has become a significant reason why many people, including those who already have an estate plan, are meeting with their estate planning attorney. Once you know or suspect that a lawsuit is on the horizon, it’s too late to put a plan in place to protect your assets. Instead, you need to start with a sound financial plan and couple that with a comprehensive estate plan that will, in turn, protect your assets for the benefit of both you during your lifetime and your beneficiaries after your death.
Estate Planning Lawyer In Utah
When you need Utah Estate Planning Attorneys to help you, please call Ascent Law LLC for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506