Estate Planning Overview

Utah estate planning

Estate planning is very important and only a few people make an effort to understand the basic concept and the importance of estate planning. Some basic facts and tips regarding the same are as follows:

  • • If a person dies without making his will, that is, if he dies ‘intestate’, the court gets the authority to take all important decisions like bringing up of his children, the administration of his estate, the inheritance of real and personal property, etc.
  • Make sure that your will is made as in the majority of cases, the family of the deceased is left with no option but to agree to a court appointed administrator. Besides, in case there are minors or someone who is mentally challenged among your family members, problems can increase manifold. Children from previous marriages, if any, further add to these complications.
  • If proper estate planning is not done, irrespective of the wish of the deceased, the children from the first spouse generally end up with nothing.
  • At times, the children get all the assets whereas the surviving spouse is left in a state where it might not be quite possible to maintain the current standards of living.
  • In case the husband and the wife die together without leaving behind a will, the State is required to decide who died first in order to adjudicate upon the issues of inheritance and administration of the estate. As per the rule, the heirs of the one who die first are left high and dry. In short, failure to have an estate plan can cause a lot of problems to your family after you die. Your hard work over so many years will go wasted and your spouse and children will be deprived of the benefits of your labor.

Types of Estate Planning Documents

You may have heard some of the terms, Last Will and Testament, Living Will, Power of Attorney, but are not exactly sure what they are or whether you need them. From an Estate Planning perspective, these documents are essential to ensure that your assets are distributed properly and your legal interests are protected.

A Last Will and Testament is a document that sets forth the distribution of your assets at the time of your passing. A common misnomer that people have about Wills is that you have to divulge all of your bank accounts and financial information to the Attorney who is drafting the Will. This is simply not true. Usually, the Testator (the person with the Will) just sets forth the names of the heirs and how much of his/her estate each heir will receive, i.e. 50% to my son, Jack, and 50% to my daughter, Mary. Typically, only special assets are specifically named in the Will, i.e. my 5 carat diamond ring to my friend, Lucy, or my home in Heber Utah to my friend, Steve.

After that, a simple Will requires only a few other things. You must name an Executor of your Will. The Executor is the person who will handle the Estate affairs after your passing. He/She will open an Estate, determine all of your assets and liabilities, and make distribution of those assets as per the guidelines set forth in your Will. You will also have to name a Trustee if you plan on leaving any assets to a minor. There are a few other minor legal requirements that your local attorney can assist you with in drafting your Last Will and Testament.

A Living Will is a document that sets forth your wishes as to certain types of medical treatment in the event that you suffer a permanent disability that renders you incapacitated with no hope of recovery. The instance that we are talking about here is the person in a coma or permanent vegetative state. In order for a Living Will to take effect in Heber Utah, two physicians must certify that you have no real hope of recovery. At that point, your Surrogate (this person is named in the Living Will) will meet with your physician and advise him as to your wishes regarding treatment.

A Power of Attorney is another important document. This document gives your Agent the ability to act on your behalf in almost any type of situation that you could think of. The Agent has the ability to sign checks, transfer real estate, and make medical decisions and much more. As you can see, this document is very powerful, and as such, the authority bestowed with it should only be granted to an individual that you trust beyond reproach. This document becomes important in the instance where you can no longer act for yourself, or have difficulty doing so. However, you should be advised that this document takes effect immediately upon signing. Again, at least in Heber Utah, this document gives your Agent the ability to act on your behalf immediately.

Important Estate Planning Terms To Know

There are many aspects to estate planning, which is truly a flexible process that is unique for every individual. A living will is often a strong foundation, but estate planning doesn’t end there. Most individuals need to complete a series of documents to ensure their wishes will be fulfilled following their death. These are important terms to understand as you prepare and go through the process:

Living Trust

A living trust outlines what you’d like to happen with your assets, dependents, and heirs after you die. It is different than a will, because it skips the probate process that is required in the execution of wills. You simply name a trusted individual as the successor trustee, and he or she will carry about the instructions you’ve provided. This same individual may be responsible for managing your legal, financial, and healthcare needs if you become unable to do so yourself.

Special Needs Trust

If someone is incompetent or mentally or physically disabled, they can be protected by a special needs trust. This arrangement can pay for medical items and supplemental needs that the government won’t cover. When arranged correctly, the beneficiary can receive Social Security and Medicaid benefits, plus get the extra support needed from the trust fund. The assets are protected so they’ll be used in the way that has been designated.

Children’s Common Trust

This legal document can provide protection to children in a number of different situations. It can ensure that if sued, your children won’t lose their inheritance. It can also prevent a stepparent from stripping your children of their inheritance. A kid common trust can be created to ensure your assets will not be allocated to nursing home costs and will instead be gifted to your children.

Last Will

This legal document outlines how you’d like your property and assets to be distributed after death. A critical part of the estate planning process, it also gives you the opportunity to name someone to execute those wishes and allows you to name guardians for your children. You may also set specific guidelines about how inheritances will be distributed, for example in the case of young children. Following death, a probate proceeding is often requested to confirm the validity of the will.

Power of Attorney

A Power of Attorney is a written authorization for someone to act on your behalf when dealing with legal and private matters. The level of authorization that person has can vary greatly, so it’s imperative to outline your wishes in great detail. The types of power the person may have included being able to make financial and health care decisions should you become incapacitated or otherwise unable to make them for yourself.

Difference Between An Heir And A Beneficiary

Many people use the terms “heir” and “beneficiary” interchangeably, but there are important differences between the two designations. Here’s how an heir and a beneficiary differ:

Who is an heir?

An heir is a relative who is legally entitled to an inheritance from a deceased relative’s estate when the decedent did not have a legal last will and testament.

When there’s no will, which is called “dying intestate,” an estate typically passes to the closest living relatives in prescribed shares, then to more distant relatives if close relatives are not living. While a surviving spouse is not an heir in the strict definition of the word, a spouse or registered domestic partner is typically first in line for assets through a state’s marital or community property laws. Assets pass first to a living spouse and/or immediate descendants (children and/or grandchildren, biological as well as adopted). If they’re not living, then to parents, and if they’re not living, to descendants of grandparents (aunts, uncles, and cousins). If all heirs are deceased, then the assets of the estate pass to the state, which is called escheatment.
Who gets how much is determined by each state’s particular intestate succession laws, which are blueprints for how an estate will be divided if a person dies without a valid will in place. It’s the probate court’s job to make sure the net assets of the estate pass to the people who are legally entitled to them.

Who is not an heir?

An unmarried partner, no matter the length of the relationship, would not be considered an heir. Neither would close friends, stepchildren, in-laws, legally divorced spouses, foster children, or a charity. This is one reason why it’s so important to make sure you have a legal last will and testament if you wish to leave your estate to someone who is not considered a legal heir.

Who is a beneficiary?

A beneficiary is a someone named in a decedent’s will, trust, life insurance policy, and/or financial account who has been selected to receive the assets. A beneficiary need not be an heir: a friend, a long-term partner, a stepchild, or a charity can be a beneficiary. Even a pet can be a beneficiary! And while heirs can be beneficiaries, it’s not always a given they’ll inherit. Take, for examples, parents who leave the bulk of their estates to romantic partners instead of their living children or grandparents who cut wayward grandchildren out their wills.

To make matters more interesting: while a last will and testament provides direction for how the decedent wants their assets distributed, it doesn’t necessarily determine who will inherit the assets because they’re often passed on through a beneficiary designation at a credit union, bank, insurance company, or other financial institution.

For example, a will may direct financial accounts to be divided evenly between two children, but if all beneficiary designations for all these accounts are in the decedent’s ex-spouse’s name, that ex-spouse is entitled to the assets. The children won’t get anything, unless there are accounts in the estate with no beneficiary designations; then the children would be entitled to those assets.
It’s important to remember: Beneficiary designations trump wills! This is why you should continually check your beneficiary designations and make changes when there’s a life event such as a birth, adoption, death, marriage, divorce, and remarriage. And unlike heirs, who inherit assets based on prescribed shares determined by a state’s guidelines, beneficiaries get amounts determined by the decedent. There can also be more than one primary beneficiary, as well as more than one secondary or contingent beneficiary in case the primary beneficiary is deceased. Also unlike heirs, beneficiaries can get distributions from the estate in percentage amounts based on the decedent’s directives. For example, a spouse could get 100% of an insurance policy benefit, but they could also get 34%, with two adult children each getting 33%.

There are many reasons that go beyond inheritance why having a last will and testament in place is a good idea. But if you’d rather give your assets to someone other than your heirs, check all your financial accounts to ensure you’ve made your beneficiary designations and then make an appointment with an estate or family law attorney in Heber Utah to iron out all of your last wishes.

Considerations for Telling Your Heirs About Your Estate Plan

One of the most important aspects to consider when telling your heirs about your estate plan is making sure they know exactly what your estate planning designations are. This promotes an open dialogue and invites communication about your wishes. This conversation allows you to explain why you have made certain decisions, gives your heirs the opportunity to ask questions and ultimately helps prevent the possibility of disputes arising in the future from upset beneficiaries. In case a major life event occurs (i.e. you passing away or becoming incapacitated), your heirs will know how to plan accordingly as to what they will receive. To go along with this, we recommend updating your estate plan every 3 to 5 years or whenever a major life event occurs to ensure all changes are documented accordingly. Your heirs should be notified when changes are made if those changes will affect them.

Know the Difference Between an Estate Plan, a Will, and a Trust

When telling your loved ones about your estate plan, it is important that each of you understand the difference between an estate plan, a will, and a trust. All these are important aspects of the estate planning process. The estate plan includes all of the documents that specify what happens to your assets after you pass away or are otherwise unable to care for yourself. This typically includes a will and/or trust, a power of attorney, an Advance Medical Directive, and more.

A will is a legal document that takes effect after you pass away. A will identifies the assets each of your beneficiaries will receive from your estate after you pass away and your debts have been paid.
A trust is a legal entity that takes effect as soon as it is signed. A trust holds legal title to the assets placed in the trust and governs how those assets will be administered both during your life and after your death.

Schedule a Free Initial Consultation with Estae Planning Lawyer
Kermit R.

I like these guys, they worked as a team to get my lawsuit resolved. As far as my divorce and child custody case, they know their stuff. I really wanted to settle quickly. It wasn’t as fast as I wanted, but it got done and I am so much happier for it.

George H.

Mike Anderson and Greg Lyle have really helped me with a real estate quiet title action. These guys know real estate law. If you are in South Jordan – you should see them for real estate litigation.

Tre G.

I want to thank you for assisting me through this difficult times of going through bankruptcy. I was at the hearing today. Mr. Weekes was there for me. I was scared, but he re-assured me. It went on smoothly. There was a time I became emotional, and started to sob quietly, and looked sad. I want to thank you again kindly.

Adam J.

[Ascent] Law was professional, helpful, and easy to work with. They kept us informed on what was going on and helped us to make sure we understood what was being done and what was expected of us. We were glad we chose them!

Stephanie M.

[Russell Weekes] helped me through my bankruptcy I was so nervous about my situation they were so great in answering all my questions. I recommend them to anyone they are fast and a professional team who care about there clients and what they are going through.


Russell and his team made my situation nothing short of amazing for the situation I was in.  All of my questions were always answered and I never was made to feel as if I was dumb to have gotten in the financial situation that I did. I have already referred a friend and would refer any family and friends to him and his team.

Dan D.

I had a great experience. The people were friendly and helpful. They went above and beyond to help me.

Tommy B.

Great service. I appreciate their kindness and making me feel at ease.


I highly recommend [Russell Weekes]. Filing Bankruptcy isn’t fun for anyone, and these guys were there for me every step of the way. I always got quick responses, they answered every question and put me at ease. I am extremely happy I chose them!

Tim F.

Everybody should go to [Ascent} should they have any bankruptcy matters at hand. They’re 100% legit, intelligent and friendly. They will do whatever it takes to see that your case is successfully discharged! They stay on top of it 100% of the way even if you get too caught up with lifes hurdles, they’re behind the scenes still steady at work for YOU!! (Their 1st priority). I fully recommend and support [Ascent] Law!!!

Aaron F.

I’m filing for bankruptcy right now and they have been great so far answering my questions and everything.


[Ascent] Law helped me out during a tough time. They took care of everything and were super friendly.

Aaron M.

If you’ve gotta go through the mess of financial bankruptcy, these guys are the best. My attorney as well as all of the paralegals and staff made going through hell much easier than I could have ever asked. Any questions I had they responded to immediately. They were always timely and gave me great legal advise. They aren’t the cheapest option, but the payment plans provided were unbeatable.

Justin T.

Great service. They answered all of my questions and made me free comfortable. The staff and attorneys are knowledgeable.

Annon Y.

I am extremely happy with [Ascent] Law. First, no one ever wants to be in a position to have to file for bankruptcy, but if you do, you need someone who knows what they are doing, and will keep you informed. I was very nervous that I wouldn’t pick the right lawyer, or we would end up with someone who just wanted to get paid, and left us hanging. Our lawyer has been AMAZING. He is always fast to respond to any of my questions, and is very good at making sure you understand what is happening, and that you are comfortable with the process.

The Perrys

Wonderful Attorney in Michael Anderson. Just what we were looking for in a Family Trust. Very knowledgeable, trustworthy, dependable, smart and kind. Recommend him or this law firm to everyone.

A Satisfied Client

My experience was unlike all of the stories one hears of attorneys. Mike and his team were absolutely spot on with their communication, follow-up, understanding and ultimately the results. They were aware of my budget and worked hard to keep me there.

I am truly appreciative of there complete caring and handling of my situation.

Jeffery L.

I want to take a moment and tell you about Michael Anderson – I will try to keep it short. Mike is not only a family man that is good to his wife and kids, but he is an amazing lawyer. I have learned that when you have to choose an attorney to fight for you and your child’s life in court, you should review the prior successes of the attorney. But honestly, not only did I need an aggressive pit-bull type of attorney, I also needed an attorney with a kind heart, someone that could handle an over-aggressive ex and also be caring to me. That’s exactly what Mike Anderson is. A caring family law attorney and also an aggressive advocate in court. I highly recommend Mike, Colt and Greg and all of their professional staff (I’ve spoken with all of them over this child custody dispute and divorce mess). Not only does Mike have the life skills of being a loving husband and father to his 3 kids, but he knows the law and is able to help you look forward and help you with the problems here and now. He’s good. Really good. Mike really helped me through this stressful time in my life. When it’s your turn to have to fight in West Jordan or Salt Lake (I’ve been in both courts) you better make sure Michael Anderson is on your side. If he’s on the other side – look out! Thanks for everything Mike.

Elise J.

My experience with [Ascent Law] was the most painless of all the many horrible things that a DUI charge will bring with it. The reason I say it was painless was because he knows exactly what he is doing. You know once you talk to him that this isn’t his first rodeo. [My attorney] has confidence in what he is doing witch really helped me during this hard time. This was not the case with other lawyers that I talked to. They told me things that I wanted to hear to try to sell me. That just made my situation worse and lengthened the process and cost. I had some priors so this wasn’t a simple case, but after hiring Mr. Rush he got everything worked out and he found flaws in the prosecution’s case against me. He found their mistakes and their missing information which made all the difference. Other lawyers don’t even read the reports but [My attorney] knew all the details. So, if you have criminal case, I give you my testimonial that he is professional, ethical, smart, and has a good team working with him and you never find yourself trying to track him down for stuff. I can’t tell you how happy I am. Thanks!!!”

Free Consultation