Utah Estate Planning

Getting the Most from an Estate Planning Initial Consultation
Plan for Estate Plan in January

            When most people speak of “estate planning,” they are generally referring to wills and trusts.  However, “estate planning” broadly includes any systematic arrangement of one’s property.  An “estate” is simply your property.  Your property can be arranged in a manner so as to hold or protect your assets, provide for life-time gifts, create individual privacy, implement tax savings, provide for your children’s education, open financial accounts, or be used for planning for one’s death.  An estate plan can include trusts, wills, family partnerships, life and health insurance, powers of attorney, health care directives, guardianship declarations, and much more depending on your needs and desires.

Why meet with an attorney?

            There are a number of well-written computer programs that can create many necessary estate plan documents.  The attorney who offers you an “entire” “estate plan” for only $500 is roughly equal to a well-written computer program.  Although the one-size-fits-all approach is a viable alternative for many individuals, the problem is that you and your property are not like any other person and his or her property.  Can you think of any person who has the same property and situation as you?

            For example, you may have a handicap child.  Your spouse may be in a nursing home.  You may have a child that lives with you or is not mature.  You may not have any children, but have several pets that are priceless to you.  You may have an incompetent child.  You may have a child that is a drug user that would spend any inheritance on methamphetamines, but you still desire to help him or her.  You may have children that would be prone to fight over an inheritance.  You may have a child that is not trustworthy.  You may have Alzheimer’s in your genes.  You may intend to qualify for Medicaid or may seek to avoid government involvement in your life at all costs.  You may desire to donate all of your property to a charity.  You may have a child that will likely require governmental assistance.  You may own your own business.  The list goes on and on.  These issues are extremely important and must be reviewed or you risk irreparable damage to your property or your family.  Software programs and $500 “estate plan” attorneys do not review or consider these problems.  These programs will not even let you know that you have other options.

            If you are like me, one-size-fits-all does not work for you and unfortunately, many people mistakenly believe that they have to conform to fit the one-size-fits-all.  A good attorney will find out what your needs are and develop a comprehensive plan that will work for you personally – not Jane and Joe Smith across the street.  It is our policy to closely examine the needs of our clients prior to recommending an estate plan to suit their needs.

What is generally provided in an estate plan?

            The answer to this question again depends largely on the needs of the individual.  Notwithstanding, here are a few key documents that you would likely have in your estate plan:

  • Trust
  • Certificate of Trust
  • Last Will and Testament
  • Power of Attorney
  • Health Care Directive
  • Guardianship Declaration
  • Warranty Deed

How much does an estate plan cost?

            As you are probably aware, attorneys are always quick to answer “It depends.”  Unfortunately, the answer does depend on your individual situation.  For more simple estate plans with a trust, you can expect to pay from $1,200 to $1,500 for a single person.  If you have extraordinary needs and desires the cost will rise depending on the extra time of your attorney.  We do promise that we will quote your exact cost at our first meeting (or shortly thereafter) prior to beginning any work on the estate plan.  We also do not charge you for our first meeting.  There will not be any additional costs unless you decide to completely redesign your estate plan.  Once you agree to begin the work, we do require that you pay half of the cost upfront and the remaining half is due at signing.

What should I do before I call or meet with you?

            You don’t need to do anything prior to setting up an appointment with us.  Call us at (801) 612-9299.  Before our next meeting, we recommend that you complete the Client Estate Plan Worksheet.  You should at the very least be ready to discuss the topics and questions detailed in the Client Estate Plan Worksheet.

Why should I have a trust?

            The number one reason to have a trust is to avoid probate.  Probate is not where the government takes your property – that’s called the IRS.  Probate is where a Utah court (assuming you live in Utah) makes an official determination that your will is valid and who your heirs are.  If you die intestacy (i.e., without a will), your heirs will likely still have to go through the probate process.  Probate usually lasts over six months and often continues for a couple of years.  To assist heirs in a simple and non-contested probate, we charge approximately $2,800.

            If your property is held in a trust, you can avoid probate.  The reason a trust avoids probate is because the trust (not you) owns the property at your death.  Generally, the trust will have a new trustee appointed and new beneficiaries identified in accordance with the trust terms.

            Other important reasons to have a trust include implementing asset protection, disability planning, tax planning, or having strings attached to your property at your death (e.g., your minor child not receiving property until he is 25 years old).

Is the trust amendable or revocable?

            Most trusts we provide are revocable and amendable.  However, there are important reasons to have an irrevocable trust set up.  Irrevocable trusts are often used for tax and Medicaid planning.  Further, even an amendable and revocable trust will customarily become non-amendable and irrevocable upon your death or incapacity.

Utah Estate Planning

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