Estate Planning: What is it and How can It Help Me?

In a nutshell, estate planning involves all the steps one takes to make sure there are instructions and steps in place to deal with their belongings, property, assets and benefits when the person passes away. For many people, this is limited to just a final will. However, estate planning involves a lot more as there are multiple options available for those interested in how their property will be distributed after they are gone.

The most basic form of estate planning under Utah estate laws is essentially doing nothing. While not really a plan, per se, it generally throws a person’s property and its distribution to the probate court. Everyone’s estate, absent certain exceptions, ends up in probate court after their passing. The court provides the final order and agreement on the distribution and closes the title the person had as legal ownership, allowing others to take over. If there are no instructions, the court will make the decision itself. This is why a will is stressed so much by law firms in Utah as the court will favor a will’s instructions as much as possible where one exists.

The second level of estate planning involves a plan and strategy, which can include a will and other instruments crafted by a law firm in Utah. The goals tend to be more than one, usually including making sure things get distributed a certain way as well as hoping to reduce the impact of inheritance taxes on property transferred. The general components of a typical estate plan written by a Utah estate attorney will include a will as a catch-all for all property and specific instructions how some items should be distributed, instructions for charity donations, the identification of the will’s executor, and the naming of beneficiaries. While not required, an estate plan can also include a trust, which helps transfer property outside of the probate court process and privately (court proceedings are public).

Estate planning makes a lot of sense in addition to just avoiding leaving decisions to the probate court. It can provide an orderly treatment of one’s property and accounts if pass away unexpectedly. In this regard, the instructions can spell out exactly how things should work with family and relatives, avoiding confusion and squabbles when people are grieving. The plan can also detail last wishes for how underage children should be cared for as well, a key issue if both parents are lost prematurely. Finally, an estate plan can help beneficiaries receive more of an estate by avoiding unnecessary taxes on transfer.

Just about anything with a financial value can be part of an estate plan crafted by a law firm. The most obvious tends to be bank and stock accounts, but an estate plan can include a house, cars, art, digital assets, insurance plan benefits, retirement account rights, and who should be outstanding debts (yes, debt can be willed).

Not every option possible in estate planning from Utah law firms needs to be used. For some situations, a simple will can be enough for a basic protection and documentation of last wishes, which is always a good legal protection to have. For others, an estate plan is a must, especially if they have a complicated list of distributions and beneficiaries, as well as an interest in property passing without additional taxation. Ultimately, the probate court has the final say on any matter regarding an estate. However, the courts are very unlikely to go against documents and executed wills, trusts and similar estate plan instruments as they clearly define the last wishes of the property owner prior to passing. It takes a very strong argument to sway a court otherwise. In most situations of dispute, the parties arguing try to prove the decedent wasn’t capable of planning the estate as documented versus attacking the written instructions themselves.

To find out more about how estate planning can be applied in a particular person’s situation, it’s best to talk about the matter and details with an experienced Utah legal group. While there is plenty of information available on the Internet, a lot of it can be confusing and may not apply. Remember, probate law varies from state to state, so unless one is specifically looking at information about their state and court system, it could be bad information. A licensed estate planning attorney solves this problem, providing the right information for your specific situation from the start.  Weber Law Group can help. Call us and set up an appointment to see what your options are, and you might just be surprised what’s available for lasting protections.