Estate Planning

When To Contact a Trust and Estates Lawyer In Provo, UT

There are times in life when it is obvious that people in the Provo, UT area should start meeting with a trust and estates attorney. For example, it’s more obvious that seniors need to get their estates in order than younger people do. While some situations are more urgent than others, there are actually quite a few indicators that you’re ready to start estate planning with an attorney.

Estate Planning Thoughts for Unmarried Couples | Trust Lawyers In Utah County

Trust lawyers in Utah County work with unmarried couples to help protect their assets and their partners’ interests should one of them pass away. The way that federal and state laws are set up, it is customary for a spouse to receive assets of an estate through the Utah County probate process. Unfortunately, things are far less cut-and-dry when it comes to settling the estate of an unmarried partner.

The Downside to Annuities From A Utah Trust Lawyer’s Perspective

When it comes to annuities, trust lawyers in Utah do at times recommend these financial products for their clients…and they may be a great choice for you.

Ask a Provo Estate Planning Lawyer: What Is An Annuity?

There are so many considerations to make when doing your estate planning, and it can get downright confusing. Suddenly you’re talking about assets and investments, wills and trusts, life insurance and death taxes. No wonder people turn to their estate planning lawyers in Provo and surrounding areas for help. In order to de-mystify at least one of these estate planning tools, today we’re going to take a moment to ask and answer the question “What is an annuity?”

A HIPAA Waiver: Do I Need One?

It has happened to all of us. You make a visit to the doctor’s office and while checking in, the receptionist asks you to read and sign something about HIPAA. HIPAA? You came in for fever and a sore throat, your hip feels just fine, thank you very much. So what is the receptionist talking about? HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.

Your Buy-Sell Might Be Great If You Die, But What Happens If You Live?

In the previous issue of this newsletter, we looked at what happens to a company when one owner becomes disabled. In our example, the company had a buy-sell agreement that covered the death of an owner, but failed to adequately address the cash flow implications of a lifetime event (divorce, disability, bankruptcy or retirement of a shareholder).

Few owners (or their advisors) give much thought or analysis to the likelihood of a lifetime transfer. Instead they focus all of their attention on dealing with the least likely event—an owner’s death. Yet, in our experience, lifetime transfers occur much more frequently, and when they do can cause huge problems.

Lifetime Buyout of a Co-Owner

When disability strikes an owner, the company will endure substantial hardships, both economic and operational. More importantly, in the absence of a buy-sell agreement, the disabled owner’s income stream from the company also may evaporate. This problem confronted Steve Hughes, one of three equal shareholders in a growing advertising agency.

At age 38, Steve suddenly had a stroke. As with many stroke victims, his recovery was incomplete. Physically, he was the picture of health (his golf game even improved!); but he totally lost his ability to speak and read. Doctors told Steve he would never be able to return to work.

Steve’s firm had a buy-sell agreement, but it covered only a buyout at death and an option for the company to buy Steve’s stock if he were to try to sell it to a third party. Trying to find and sell closely held stock to a third party is a difficult proposition anytime; Steve’s disability made it impossible. Even if his fellow shareholders had wanted to continue his salary, they did not have the resources to do so indefinitely.

VA Service-Connected Disability Compensation

The Veterans Administration provides an important benefit program for veterans who have service-connected disability. The program is called "Compensation" and is different from the non-service-connected "Pension" program that elder law attorneys often discuss with wartime veteran clients or their surviving spouses. Like the pension program, VA compensation comes in the form of income-tax-free money payments to the veteran, who must have received a discharge other than dishonorable, or certain of their family members. The big difference from the pension program, however, is that VA compensation entirely flows from the linkage between the veteran's disability and his or her military service.

For most veterans, the key issues in accessing VA compensation benefits have been proving service connection for the disability, and then dealing with the disability level rating that the VA assessment system applies to the particular veteran's case. Often veterans who prove service connection are nonetheless frustrated by their disabilities being rated in seemingly unreasonably low percentages, such as 30% disabled rating, with the result that their compensation benefits may not be adequate to sustain them despite the actual disabling effects on their lives.

It is important to be aware that the surviving spouse of a compensation recipient may be eligible for a benefit called DIC, Dependency and Indemnity Compensation. DIC applies to the surviving spouse of a veteran who died of his or her service-connected disability, or who received VA compensation for a period of 10 years prior to death not caused by the service-connected disability. For more information about DIC, see the VA website.

The Presumptive Disease List

As Vietnam War veterans become "elders" in their 60s and 70s, it is increasingly important for professional advisors of all kinds to be aware of a special situation that applies to them. This special situation is the "presumptive disease list."

Big Changes, Critical Decisions: Divorce and Estate Planning.

This week, I was visiting with a client of mine who has been married more than once. The questions that this client had for me centered around whether there was anything that needed to be done in her estate planning after a divorce.

The fact is, there is a great deal that must be considered when a divorce takes place. Getting a divorce decree from the courts is only the beginning. Here are some things that should be dealt with as soon as possible after a divorce that can have a major impact on your estate planning:

1. You should carefully review your guardianship nominations for your minor children in your will or other legal documents and update them if necessary. This ensures that should something happen to you, your children will end up with the caregivers that you would prefer. Often, a divorce drastically changes your previous views on this issue.

2. Update your Health Care decision documents. In Utah, you should execute a new Advance Health Care Directive that helps you to designate whom you would want to make health care decisions for you if you were incapable of doing so. Often, these documents have not been changed after a divorce and in an emergency, and an ex-spouse is contacted about health care decisions by the doctors. This is exactly what happened in the case of Gary Coleman here in Utah. His ex-spouse was still named as the health care agent in his legal documents. Thus, she made decisions about his health care. And even though that may have been what Mr. Coleman would have wanted, it is still unclear if that was the case.

The Top 10 Benefits of a Comprehensive Power of Attorney

The benefits of a highly detailed, comprehensive power of attorney are numerous. Unfortunately, many powers of attorney are more general in nature and can actually cause more problems than they solve, especially for our senior population. This issue of our newsletter is intended to highlight the benefits of a comprehensive, detailed power of attorney. A proper starting point is to emphasize that the proper use of a power of attorney as an estate planning and elder law document depends on the reliability and honesty of the appointed agent.

The agent under a power of attorney has traditionally been called an "attorney-in-fact" or sometimes just "attorney." However, confusion over these terms has encouraged the terminology to change so more recent state statutes tend to use the label "agent" for the person receiving power by the document.

The "law of agency" governs the agent under a power of attorney. The law of agency is the body of statutes and common law court decisions built up over centuries that dictate how and to what degree an agent is authorized to act on behalf of the "principal"--the individual who has appointed the agent to represent him or her. Powers of attorney are a species of agency-creating document. In most states, powers of attorney can be and most often are unilateral contracts--that is, signed only by the principal, but accepted by the agent by the act of performance.

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