Once you own property, it’s vital to know what you need to have to ensure the property goes to the right people should anything happen to you. Look no further if you are searching for an estate planning attorney near you. Ruesch & Reeve has attorneys who can help lead you through the process of estate planning.

Ruesch & Reeve provides legal assistance in the following areas: Adoption law, bankruptcy, business & corporate law, construction law, criminal defense, estate planning and probate, family law, immigration law, land use & zoning law, litigation, mining law, personal injury law, real estate development and finance, and water law.

What does it mean to plan your estate?

First, you’ll need to understand what estate planning entails.

  • Have critical discussions with loved ones

The most crucial step in planning your estate is to identify who will receive what part (if not all) of your estate upon your passing. This can be a difficult conversation among your loved ones, such as your spouse or children, but it is a necessary one.

  • Organize all the necessary documents

As part of your estate planning, you should prepare documents including a will, documentation of life insurance and account information, and documentation of your end-of-life wishes.

A will can be prepared by an attorney, or you can find an online form for a simple estate. Utah also allows people to create a special type of will called a holographic will, a will that is entirely handwritten and signed by its creator. Whatever the type, a will should detail how you want your assets distributed; otherwise, the state will determine how your assets will be divided.

You should also leave your loved ones with physical or electronic instructions on how to find relevant account information and access to any life insurance you might hold.

It is also important to document your end-of-life wishes by naming a power of attorney, a legal document that allows another person to make decisions for you. A power of attorney can be created for financial or health-care related matters or even both.

  • Assign beneficiaries to your accounts

Another way to ensure your wishes are executed is to assign beneficiaries. No matter what your will says, the beneficiary supersedes everything, making it important to name the correct beneficiary and line out what your wishes are for them to carry out when you’re gone.

  • Considering an Ethical Will

Despite the name, an ethical will is neither a binding nor a legal document. Since a regular will focuses primarily on the division of a person’s estate, it can be rather impersonal and devoid of the person’s thoughts, beliefs, and legacy. An ethical will is a document a person can create independently that outlines their story, life lessons, blessings, values, and hopes and dreams for their children’s future. Some may include apologies to persons that have been wronged or gratitude to others that have not been thanked enough. Ethical wills are generally deeply private and personal letters meant to be kept between the writer and their family.

If you have questions regarding the process of estate planning, you can search for an estate planning attorney near me.

estate planning attorney near me
estate planning attorney near me

Estate planning steps

Ruesch & Reeve, a law firm based in Southern Utah who has an estate planning attorney near me, recommends a 12-step process for setting up your estate, which goes as follows:

  • Create a will that states who you want to inherit your properties. This is when you will also name guardians to take care of your children if something happens to you. 
  • Create a Trust so your survivors can avoid the probate process. (This step will be talked about in further detail later.)
  • Create a health care directive, which will outline your health care wishes if you can no longer make those decisions for yourself and name someone who will make those decisions on your behalf.
  • Create a financial power of attorney to designate someone who will be responsible for handling your finances and property if you no longer can.
  • Ensure the protection of your children’s property by choosing a guardian to manage the property and finances your minor children may inherit from you.
  • Name a beneficiary on bank accounts and retirement plans so they become “payable upon death” to that person to avoid the probate process.
  • Consider purchasing life insurance if you have young children, own a house, have debts, or owe estate taxes.
  • Determine if you owe federal estate taxes. For deaths in 2022, the federal government will only impose estate tax at your death if your taxable estate is worth more than $12.06 million. Married couples can transfer twice the exempt amount tax free, and if the assets are transferred to a surviving spouse who is also a U.S. citizen, the transferred assets are tax free.
  • Save ahead for your funeral costs by creating a “payable-on-death” account at your bank and depositing regular small payments.
  • Outline your end-of-life wishes for anyone who needs to know if you wish to be a donor and how you would like to be buried or cremated. This should not be outlined in only a will because it may not be seen until long after arrangements need to be made. Consider writing a letter to a loved one where they know it will be upon your death.
  • Ensure that either your attorney or executor has access to the following documents they will need after your death: 
    • Will
    • Trusts
    • Insurance policies
    • Real estate deeds
    • Stocks, bonds, and annuities certificates
    • Bank accounts, mutual funds, and safe deposit boxes information
    • Retirement plans, 401K accounts, or IRAs information
    • Debt information including credit cards, mortgages and loans, utilities, and unpaid taxes

If you own property in other states, estate planning can become more complex. Work would need to be done to determine which property is your permanent residence to ensure which state laws govern your estate plan. Properties out-of-state will need to be carefully handled to ensure that the estate plan will maintain control over its distribution.

You can contact Ruesch & Reeve for help making these arrangements and understanding the extent of the laws in Utah for your snowbird property. This law firm takes on individual and corporate clients to provide transactional, litigation, and regulatory assistance.

How to avoid family complications following your passing

  • Involve family in discussions

As you start the process of developing your estate plan, discuss among your family members about any specific keepsakes they wish to inherit. If everyone is on the same page about who is getting what, it can prevent several arguments and surprises down the road. You can even help your family out by getting rid of things that you no longer need and no one in the family wants. This way, there is no way for family members to argue about it later.

  • Create a memorandum

Your estate plan should include a will, a trust, a power of attorney, and a living will to clarify your end-of-life care. Since these documents are meant to be general and cover broad portions of your estate, a memorandum is a tool that can be used to specifically bequeath certain personal items to specific persons. Having this document will make it easier for family members to accept who gets certain keepsakes if they know you wanted someone specific to have it.

  • Hire a professional executor

Choosing your estate’s executor can become tricky because you are giving one or more family members the power to make all the decisions involving the estate. Bestowing this type of power can cause tension to other members of the family if not addressed correctly. If this is a concern, you may want to consider hiring a corporate fiduciary as executor through your bank or trust company as a neutral third party to govern the distribution of your estate. You can name an executor in your will, or your chosen executors can hire a professional upon your death.

You can get advice from an estate planning attorney near me at Ruesch & Reeve.

estate planning attorney near me
estate planning attorney near me

Frequent estate planning questions

  • What is a will

A will is written instructions of a person’s desire to give their property to specific people, businesses, or charities upon their death. Wills must be in writing and signed by you along with two witnesses and a notary. An exception to the witness and notary requirements are holographic wills, which only need to be signed by the creator.

  • Why should I set up a will?

A will allows you to plan the distribution of your estate among your spouse, children, relatives, friends, and charities. Creating a will lets you decide who specifically gets your assets, what you want your funeral to include (if you have specifics), and who will care for your children if you and your spouse pass before they reach the age of 18. This type of planning will prevent disputes among your loved ones in the future and it will guarantee that your wishes will be met.

  • Can I change my will?

You can change your will at any time as long as you’re of sound mind. A will should be reviewed and modified in the event of any major life changes, such as marriage or divorce. New additions to the family such as children or grandchildren should also merit a review of your estate plan documents to ensure that they are covered in your wishes.

If you are overwhelmed by the idea of creating an estate plan, you can search for an estate planning attorney near me to meet with estate planning experts at Ruesch & Reeve.