“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” (Ben Franklin, 1735)
Every adult can benefit from a fully-integrated estate plan, but most people
don’t understand why. While current federal law at least temporarily
removed the federal tax incentive for most people to do estate planning by
increasing the amount that an individual can pass to the next generation
without incurring federal estate tax to $5 million, compelling reasons
remain for even middle-class Americans to do estate planning.
First, if you and your spouse together have more than $5 million in assets,
significant tax reasons remain for you to do proper estate planning. Second, even if you don't have more than $5 million in assets, you probably still want to protect your assets from potentially unkown creditors; make sure they're disposed of according to your wishes instead of according to the state’s best guess; minimize the potential for infighting among your heirs; ensure that your minor children and loved ones with special needs or diminished capacity are taken care of; and make sure that someone you trust is authorized to make decisions for you -- and that your health care wishes are followed -- in the event you become incapacitated. As estate planning attorneys in Utah, at J.D. Milliner & Associates we can help you create and maintain a fully-integrated estate plan that meets your needs.
How do you protect your assets from those who might want to try to take them from you or from someone you love? While it may be difficult to protect your assets from known creditors who have legitimate claims, a properly drafted and funded "grantor trust" can go a long way toward protecting your assets from unknown future creditors. In addition, a properly drafted "spendthrift trust" can preserve assets for minor children or someone with diminished capacity, and a so-called "special needs trust" can provide money to supplement the care required by a person with a serious disability without disqualifying him/her from the government disability and health care benefits that he/she will likely need for life. Properly structured limited liability companies and family limited partnerships can also help here.
Most of us work hard to take care of ourselves and our families. As part
of this, we gather assets for use during hard times, illness and old age.
Frequently, we are fortunate enough to gather more assets than we
need during our lifetimes. These assets may take the form of equity in
a home or other real estate, retirement savings plans and various other
types of investments and/or business interests. Once we have gathered
some assets, it is best to have a fully-integrated estate plan to direct how
they will be distributed when we no longer need them ourselves. One of
the greatest tragedies we see is when a loving parent passes on and
leaves significant assets for the next generation, only to have a significant
portion dissipated by infighting due to a lack of proper estate planning.
Yes, the state has a ready-made default estate plan for you in the form of its intestacy statutes. But, there’s a good chance it won’t distribute your assets the way you want, and it may leave certain issues open for litigation by your heirs. A well-conceived and fully-integrated estate plan provides a much better chance of having your assets distributed to whom you want, in the amounts you want, under the conditions you want, and with substantially less risk of litigation. And, while a fully-integrated estate plan may not let your heirs avoid the probate process altogether, it should make that process much shorter and less expensive for everyone concerned. As Utah estate planning attorneys, we can help you put together an estate plan that accomplishes your reasonable asset disposition goals.
Parents with minor children should always have a Will that names a guardian for their minor children in the event that both parents die or become incapacitated. It may also be wise to name a separate conservator or trustee to be in charge of the assets left for minor children. In most cases, it makes sense for parents of minor children to maintain substantial life insurance policies on themselves, and to integrate the handling of the proceeds into their estate plans.
Incapacity & End-of-Life Planning:
Through properly crafted powers of attorney and advance health-care directives (also known as “living wills”), a fully-integrated estate plan also keeps you in charge, insofar as possible, in the event of your own incapacity, whether temporary or permanent, – especially when it comes to making so called “end-of-life” decisions – and relieves your loved ones from having to make hard choices regarding your care by making those decisions for them beforehand.
Probate / Probate Litigation:
A good estate plan may protect most of an estate from having to go through the probate process. Failure to do good estate planning, however, virtually guarantee’s that some form of probate will be necessary. Very frequently, even when good estate planning has been done, it may be prudent to open a probate case for a decedent – even if it is only for the purpose of cutting off potential claims by unknown creditors. Fortunately for Utah residents, probate in Utah is neither as expensive nor as time consuming as it can be in other states. Sometimes it's also necessary to open a probate case to determine whether an existing estate plan was properly created, such as when the documents were executed by a person with diminished capactiy while under the undue influence of a person on whom they depended to take care of them -- especially when the plan favors the care provider. Whether you want to properly plan your estate, you have been appointed trustee or personal representative (executor) for someone else's trust or estate, someone close to you has died without a Will (intestate), or you believe that someone is trying to cheat you out of an inheritance, our Utah trust, estate and probate attorneys can help. Call us today at 801-505-5600.