Cedar City Magazine Article

It seems nobody likes to talk about estate planning. I get it. It’s not fun to think about death and what will happen to your belongings when you pass away; however, every time we hear about another family being torn apart and fighting in probate court because mom and dad failed to create an effective estate plan, we realize that it is important and something we need to address. But for whatever reason, no matter how many times people hear probate horror stories and see how drastically lives can be changed and adversely affected by not having a solid estate plan in place, people generally determine that estate planning is something that can be put on the back burner and “get to” another day.

Although there are many different types of estate plans, this article will focus on the Last Will and Testament and the Living Trust. A Last Will and Testament (“Will”) is a basic and simple estate plan that can ensure your assets are distributed the way you want. Perhaps the biggest “pros” to having a Will is that it is simple, straight forward and very affordable. Another benefit of a Will is the ability to list a guardian over minor children in the event the parents pass away. This is a tremendous benefit for younger families that gives them the peace of mind of knowing that upon their passing, their children will go to families they select, rather than leaving such an important decision up to the courts. Perhaps the biggest “con” to having a Will as an estate plan is the likelihood that your estate must be probated as discussed below.

Contrary to common belief, you do not have to be a Kennedy to have a trust. Indeed, under Utah’s current laws, many non-millionaires will find great benefits in creating a trust. Perhaps the greatest “pro” in creating a trust is the ability to avoid probate courts. For example, if you do not have a trust set up and your estate is valued in excess of $100K, OR if you own real estate, Utah’s laws require that your estate be submitted to the probate court prior to your executor making any distributions from your estate. That means that if you own your house at the time of your death and do not have a trust set up, your loved ones will be required to submit your estate to the probate court. Additional “pros” to having a Trust as an estate plan include: tax savings; privacy; and the ability to protect children or loved ones with special needs.

Every family is different and has different needs; as such, there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to estate planning. Prior to creating any estate plan, it is best to consult with a licensed estate planning attorney. Many attorneys offer a free consult to discuss your individual needs and answer any questions or concerns you may have. Unfortunately, numerous studies show that over 50% of Americans do not have even the most basic estate planning tools in place. Hopefully, with a little bit of research and education, you will make 2015 the year you decide to get out of that 50% and create a solid estate plan to protect your family.

Handwritten Wills

I know most people have at least thought about doing this before – You’re about to leave on a big trip and you don’t have an estate plan in place. So what do you do? You hurry and write something down on a piece of paper and call it your will hoping that it will be good enough if something happens to you on the trip. Be honest, how many of you have done this? Believe it or not, handwritten wills (or holographic wills) are completely valid in Utah. The law simply states that as long as you sign the document and the material portions are in your handwriting, it is valid. What does material portions mean? Just to be safe, I recommend that the entire document be in your handwriting. That’s it! Easy as that. So next time you’re getting ready to leave on a trip and decide to throw a will together at the last minute, just remember to make sure you write it out and sign it and you should be good.

Although handwritten wills are completely valid in Utah, they are not the best option for an estate plan and can open the door for a probate fight. Indeed, as has been documented in the news this past year, the estate of the famous painter of light, Thomas Kinkade, was left in a probate battle when he purportedly left two handwritten wills giving a large portion of his estate to his girlfriend. Handwritten Wills at Center of Thomas Kinkade Estate Battle . As you can clearly see from Mr. Kinkade’s estate, handwritten wills may leave many questions unanswered that must be settled in a court of law.

So the next time you get ready to leave on your big trip and you’ve forgotten to get your estate plan in place, don’t hesitate to scribble something down really quick, sign it and then go have a great time. When you get back however, come in and sit down and let’s put something in place that will give you a bit more piece of mind then your handwritten will.

Launching a new site

I am pleased to officially announce that I have launched a new website with the help of a professional marketing agency called TMD Management Group This new website has been built on a content management system along with a blog that will allow me to continually add or make changes when necessary. Additionally this site is Mobile responsive for optimized viewing experience no matter where you decide to brows.

Thank you for visiting my new website.

Estate Planning

It seems nobody likes to talk about estate planning. I get it. It’s not fun to plan for your death and what will happen to your stuff when you pass away; however, every time we see another celebrity in the news that died without an estate plan in place, we realize that it is important and something we need to address. Indeed, recently MSN Money ran an all too familiar story of famous people that kept putting off their estate planning and “messed up their wills.”

Celebrities Who Messed Up Their Wills

But for whatever reason, no matter how many times we read these stories and see how drastically lives can be changed and adversely affected by not having a solid estate plan in place, we always determine that estate planning is something we can put on the back burner and “get to” another day. Unfortunately, numerous studies show that over 50% of Americans don’t have even the most basic estate planning tools in place.

Estate Planning – It’s All About Your Legacy

American’s Lack Basic Estate Plans

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting on different topics in the estate planning area of law ranging from the very basic estate plan, hand written or holographic wills, to more complex estate planning involving wills and trusts. Also, if you have any questions or would like me to cover a specific area of estate planning, let me know.