The Basics of Estate Planning

Updated: Jul 23, 2020

I’m Debie Stewart, an attorney at SKV Legal, and I want to give you some basic information about estate planning and asset protection.

In essence, estate planning is the process of protecting your assets from creditors, minimizing taxes, preparing for death, or all three. This can seem like a complex subject. However, because taxes and death are unavoidable, having a good, comprehensive estate plan can shield your hard-earned assets from creditors, minimize your tax implication, and make your inevitable passing much more seamless for those you leave behind.

A basic estate plan in Utah will usually consist of the following documents:

  • A trust. A trust determines where your assets will go once you are gone. A basic trust involves three different parties: the Grantor/Settlor (the person giving the money or property), the Trustee (the person who is in charge of managing the trust’s assets), and the Beneficiary (the person receiving the benefit of the trust). Depending on your particular circumstance, you can either have a revocable trust (a trust that can be altered or canceled by the Grantor), or an irrevocable trust (a trust whose terms cannot be modified or amended). There are different advantages inherent in both, which we will discuss in more detail in forthcoming posts.

  • A pour-over will. This is a simple will that directs any property/asset that might have to pass through probate into the trust. Or, more simply, it just pours any residual property back into the trust.

  • A general assignment of assets to the revocable trust. This assignment covers general property like jewelry and furniture that was not specifically addressed in the trust.

  • A financial power of attorney. This legal document grants an agent (someone you trust) the authority to act on your behalf in financial matters. It is wise to grant someone financial power of attorney in case of unforeseen incapacity.

  • A healthcare directive. This is a written document informing others of your healthcare wishes in the event of your incapacity. It allows you to name an agent to make decisions for your healthcare if you are unable to. It gives peace to those who are left regarding your wishes.

Each estate plan certainly has its own variations and no approach is a one-size-fits-all option. We are more than happy to sit down and discuss which documents are best suited to your personal needs. All estate plans provide peace of mind because they allow you to ensure your final wishes are kept avoiding long probate processes or legal battles regarding your care, provide for your family after you are gone or if you are incapacitated, prevent certain assets from being seized by creditors or courts, and minimize tax and legal consequences for those you leave behind. Whatever plan we put together for you, providing for the distribution of your belongings after you pass is essential. Let us assist you in this process.