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Utah Estate Planning

Estate planning spans a range of fields, including the drafting of a will, establishing trusts, reducing taxes, advance medical instructions, instituting powers attorney, appointing trustees, and business succession planning. It involves creating a fully detailed plan that transfers your assets to their intended beneficiaries upon death. While it should be well-structured, it must also make room for flexibility.

The goals of planning your estate and crafting a will are to reduce legal problems, avoid expensive litigation, and reduce taxes. This, for all its legal complexity, requires the assistance and guidance and expertise of seasoned legal professionals who specials in wills and estates. Comprehensive financial and asset management is offered during this process to ensure that no loopholes are left untied and no details are left out, which may prove to detrimental to these goals in the end.

Before You Start Planning Your Estate

You will need a lawyer whom you trust. If you do not already have a lawyer, find one in your area who specializes in estates and wills, specifically, to help you create a solid strategy that fits your unique needs. Don’t be timid! If you are not sure you have found the right legal representation, treat your first meeting with them as an interview. Ask questions and don’t be afraid to ask for references from current clients.

In planning your estate and creating a will, you have a variety of options, which you can only utilize with the help of a legal team. It is wise to contact legal representation in your province and, more specifically in your region. Find a lawyer who specialized in the area of wills and estates in your area. Laws can differ from province to province so it is imperative to find one who knows local, provincial and federal laws, not to mention the loopholes that can either negatively or positively impact your efforts and goals. A great lawyer will help you to devise a strategy that is fully in your favor, and takes full advantage of all estate laws.

Getting Started

When creating an estate plan, it often starts with a listing of your assets – your property, investments, and pensions. This should be followed by a list of liabilities and debt. There must be a main objective when making a plan whether to give to charity or to transfer properties to specific individuals. There should also be a list of conditions and events that you want to avoid at all costs, to prevent family disharmony. In filling the technical details of what to do for each step, the assistance of a lawyer is recommended.

A will can be used, when executed, directs the disposition of your estate at death. The term “Intestacy” deals with state statutes that govern distribution of the property of a person who dies without a valid will or whose will does not completely dispose of his estate. In most states, the rules are the same for real and personal property. Heirs and next of kin are synonymous and describe persons who take either real or personal property by intestacy. Generally, the state where a person lives when death occurs determines the disposition of personal property. The disposition of real property is determined by the law of the state where the real property is located.

Intestacy statutes (or wills) apply only to a decedent’s probate estate. This consists of assets that pass by will or inheritance and are subject to administration by the decedent’s personal representative, (cash, real estate, and personal items). Non-probate assets pass under contract, (life insurance proceeds, trust assets, etc.). If a will is valid than it rules, but if there was no will or the will was not valid or does not make a complete disposition of the decedent’s property, than the intestacy succession statute applies. Again for personal property, remember the law of the decedent’s state where they lived governs. For real property, the law of the state where the property is located governs.

Some general rules are as follows:

  1. Spouse usually takes half or a third if there are decedents, if not, all distribution of assets goes to the spouse
  2. Children take all if there is no surviving spouse or a smaller amount if there is a surviving spouse.


These rules apply to “separate property”. Different rules apply to community property. Keep in mind if your state is a community property state, the spouse already owns on half of all community property.  The definitions of separate and community property vary from state to state, but are usually basically very similar.


Separate Property: Property owned by a spouse before marriage or properly acquired during marriage, by donations or inheritance.

Community Property: All property acquired during marriage that is not separate property. Under this rule, “all property upon divorce or death is presumed community property. The burden of establishing that a particular asset is separate property is on the party so contesting.

Quasi-Community Property Statue: Property acquired by one spouse while living in another state. Idaho and California have Quasi Community Statutes. In effect, the acquiring spouse has the power to dispose of property acquired outside the state of residence, but may only dispose of one half of the interest in the property. The other half passes to the surviving spouse. Under the Quasi Community Statute, if there is no will the property passes to the surviving spouse. There are other states that have the Quasi Community Statute that applies to divorce, but not to the death of a spouse.

Inheritance rights of Children:

  1. Adopted Children: They become the child of the adopted parent, and in most cases lose the right to inherit from the natural parents
  2. Children born out of wedlock: Inherit from the mother and her kin, but need paternal proof to inherit from the father.
  3. Step Children: May not inherit from the step-parents absent certain circumstances.
  4. Grandchildren: May inherit only if they are the only surviving decedent

In cases of simultaneous deaths, all jurisdictions, except Louisiana and Ohio have enacted the “Uniform Simultaneous Death Act”. Under this act, depending upon the priority of death and there is no sufficient evidence that the parties died otherwise than simultaneously, the property of each person shall be disposed of as if one spouse had survived.

Example: If (a) property owner and (b) beneficiary die simultaneously, the act would cause (a)’s property to pass under (a) by will or intestacy to (a)’s kin, rather than through (b)’s estate or to (b)’s kin. Under the Uniform Probate Act, which deals with deaths or by quick succession, by providing that a person must survive the decedent by 120 hours in order to take as heir or beneficiary

What constitutes a Will?

A will is an instrument executed in accordance with certain formalities that directs the disposition of a person’s property at death. It acts as a transfer of title of real and personal property. It only is effective upon death of the maker and is sometimes referred to an ambulatory document. It has no operative effect during the maker’s lifetime. It is fully revocable or amended at any time.

Formal Requirements of a Will:

  • Is the will in writing
  • Executed with testamentary intent (intent and wording of the maker at the time of execution.
  • Intent to dispose of property
  • Disposition to occur only upon death of the maker
  • Did the maker have capacity to make the will
  • That the will was executed free of fraud, duress, and undo influence.
  • Have all the state statutory requirements been met?
  • Was the will duly executed and witnessed.

Revoking a Will

  1. By law- Changes in a will may revoke all or part depending on state law
  2. By executing another will, revoking the previous one
  3. Physical destruction: tearing up, burning or writing “Cancel across the face of the will.

In most cases a complete, formally executed will do not need other documents or act to administer the to the decedents estate. There are grounds for contesting or challenging a will and usually involve the following:

  1. Was the will properly executed?
  2. Was it revoked?
  3. Did the maker lack the capacity?
  4. Was there lack of intent?
  5. Was there undue influence, fraud or duress?

A person may contest or challenge a will only if they are interested parties, (direst interest in the estate). There can be a no-contest clause in a will, called an “Interrorem”. This provides that any person who contests the will shall forfeit all interest in the estate.

Steps in Administration of the Estate:

  • Opening estate proceedings
  • All proceedings subject to court supervision and control
  • Jurisdiction-State of decedent’s death

There are fourteen (14) states that have adopted the Uniform Probate Act: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Utah.

The importance of estate planning is essential to protect yourself and your family. Make sure you consult with the proper person to provide you with all your financial needs in planning your future.

What an Estate Planning Attorney Can Do For You

Seeking the advice and services of a highly qualified estate planning attorney is the first step you should take in securing your estate. Due to the constantly changing landscape of estate and tax law, it is important that you look for an attorney who is a specialist and experienced in the field of estate planning.

Many people falsely assume that any lawyer can cover the basics required for estate planning, which is essentially filling out documents and ensuring their legality. A generalist will certainly be able to help you fill out the necessary documents, but you would be missing out on the expertise that a specialist could give you regarding the ins and outs of estate planning. Going to a generalist for your estate planning needs would be like going to a general practice physician for expert advice on a neurological problem.

A general practice physician could certainly give you advice, but a neurologist who has had extensive experience with cases just like or very similar to yours would be able to give you much better advice. When you want expert advice, you seek the counsel of an expert in the field. It should be the same when you are looking for an attorney to help you with your estate planning needs. When looking for the right attorney, keep these questions in mind:

  • How long has he/she been in practice?
  • How much experience does he/she have in the area of estate planning?
  • Does he/she offer you helpful suggestions that you feel a generalist could not offer you?
  • Do you feel like you could have a good rapport with him/her regarding even your most personal concerns relating to your estate? Estate planning can involve divulging a great deal of confidential (and sometimes embarrassing) information. Having an attorney you can trust is important.

Whether your estate planning goals are immediate or long-term, a qualified Ascent Law estate planning attorney will be able to counsel you on the best options available to you to meet your individual needs.

What An Estate Planning Law Firm Can Do For You

Most folks know that a last will and testament is the centerpiece of any solid estate plan — but it isn’t the only piece. The are many other steps you should take to ensure that your family is taken care of after your passing. Failure to do so could put your legacy in jeopardy and leave a major mess for those you leave behind. With that in mind, here’s what you can expect from estate planning services.


It might not be able to pass on your memories, but a well-thought-out arrangement can reflect your hopes and values. Although its overarching aim is to take care of your family after you’re gone, there are other, more specific goals an estate planning law firm can help you achieve, including:

  • Minimizing confusion and delay during the settlement of your estate
  • Helping your heirs avoid paying more than they owe in taxes on inherited assets
  • Managing your legal and financial affairs should you become disabled or incapacitated
  • Guarding your assets against the rising costs of long-term medical care
  • Making sure your wishes are followed with regard to medical decisions and care should you be unable to make those decisions for yourself
  • Providing for your loved ones according to your wishes after your death
  • Overseeing charitable donations
  • Working with the executor to manage the distribution of your assets.

Proper Preparation

One of the most common mistakes people make is failure to make short-term arrangements. Death seems like something that will happen in decades. As such, some people are not prepared when an unexpected accident results in disability or death. Of course, the expenses associated with either event could alter any long-term financial goals. That is why estate attorneys must always consider both short and long-term options. They may advise purchasing life and long-term care insurance. These policies will protect your assets in the unlikely event that you are cut down in the prime of your life.

Common Strategies

Another aim of estate planning is to help your heirs avoid unnecessary taxes. Although transferring wealth in Utah almost always involves assorted charges and fees, there are ways to limit them. Trusts and annual gifting, for example, are common strategies an estate planning law firm may employ to avoid unnecessary expenses.

The Process

Although they don’t manage money, attorneys often work closely with their clients’ financial advisers. For obvious reasons, the attorney needs to know the size of the estate before he can recommend short and long-term objectives. These plans may and often do change based on input from financial experts. If, for example, the client loses one-quarter of his assets in a stock market collapse, the attorney would have to make the necessary adjustments in the short-term.

An estate planning law firm can help you prepare for the inevitable with a strategy that ensures your legacy.



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