Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

Salt Lake City Law Blog

Tips for updating an estate plan

Once people in Utah have created an estate plan, they still need to review it periodically to make sure that it is up to date. For example, the estate tax exemption has been going up over the years, so people who created an estate plan designed to avoid paying estate tax might want to check and see whether those measures are still necessary.

Another important check is making sure that the estate plan includes all the necessary documents. In addition to a will, a person may want to consider having paperwork in place to appoint people to make medical and financial decisions in the event that they become incapacitated. Wills should also include instructions on how personal effects should be divided. These types of items can sometimes cause more conflict than items that have more monetary value.

Debts after death fall on estate and sometimes surviving spouses

People who lose spouses in Utah have significant emotions to process, but they might also have substantial financial concerns. Creditors often have a legal right to make claims upon the estate of a deceased person. The executor of an estate generally has an obligation to pay taxes, medical bills, estate administration expenses and burial costs before making distributions to heirs.

A surviving spouse is not automatically liable for these debts although they might consume an estate. A spouse would generally become directly responsible for paying debts derived from jointly held loans because the surviving person's name is on the loan documentation.

Getting a divorce, can I get shared custody of my kids?

You and your spouse are ready to call it quits. Your spouse has been a stay-at-home parent ever since your first child was born, and you have been the primary breadwinner. He or she wants full custody so that the kids are not bouncing around from house to house. You want shared custody. Is that possible in the state of Utah?

Divorce and its financial impact

Utah residents who are 50 years old or older and who get a divorce should be aware of how a divorce can impact their retirement funds, as these couples generally have less time to rebuild their retirement nest.

Since the 1990s, the divorce rate for individuals who are at least 50 years old has doubled. The Pew Research Center reports that in 2015, 10 people out of every 1,000 married people went through a divorce. The research organization also states that the occurrences of gray divorces are even higher among people who have remarried.

Too many parents don't make care plans for disabled children

If you do not have an estate plan set up, what are you waiting for? If you are the parent of a disabled child and you don't have an estate plan that includes provisions for caring for your loved one, the question goes double. Utah families with special needs individuals need to take this situation seriously. Unfortunately, a recent study suggests there's a big need for families to better prepare for the long term.

In general, a big issue is the statistical reality that people are living longer. That includes individuals with disabilities. In many instances, they are outliving their parents. The obvious concern this raises is that without a proper plan in place, a parent's death or incapacitation could leave a dependent child – even one who is an adult – adrift and at risk.

Still on the fence about a will? Here are some things to consider

Let's face it; no one likes to contemplate his or her own death. Like many other Utah residents, you are probably content living your life and not thinking too far into the future. This most likely also means that you have not yet made out a will.

If you are still on the fence regarding whether you need a will, the answer is most likely yes. Every adult could benefit from having one. No one knows what the future brings, and tragedy can strike at any time. Before you dismiss the idea, it may help to consider a few reasons why you need a will.

Talk to a family law attorney before walking down the aisle

Generally, a person may not think about talking to a family law attorney until they are considering divorce, changing a custody order or seeking to modify alimony or child support. However, Utah residents may be surprised to learn that consultations with a family law attorney prior to marriage can be a useful and even a money-saving step. After all, it is a much better time to handle asset and family decisions when both parties are amicable. And, one of the most important topics is the utility of a premarital agreement.

A premarital agreement, sometimes called a prenup, is a contract that two people make before they wed. The individuals may establish property ownership rights, and dictate which property will stay with each spouse, post-divorce. Through a prenup the parties may handle what effectively would be the property division decisions that become necessary when individuals decide to end their marriages.

Adoption through the Utah foster care system

Adoptions happen in many beautiful and life-changing situations. A family may have the opportunity to adopt a newborn baby and raise that infant from the first days of their life, or they may pursue the adoption of an older child from another country who desperately needs a family of their own. Another path to adoption allows prospective parents and children to get to know each other over time and work toward the possibility of bringing the child legally into the family through adoption.

This is known as the foster-to-adopt process. While it is the goal of the foster care program to return children to their biological families, this is not always possible. Whether because their biological parents are not fit to care for them or they have relinquished their parental rights to their kids, in some cases, a foster child may not have a home to return. Through the foster-to-adopt process, a family welcomes a child into their home without the guarantee that the child will be eligible for adoption.

Creating a child support agreement during a divorce

Not all matters related to divorce must be acrimonious. In fact, there are several important legal matters related to divorce that may be resolved through negotiations and agreements directly between the parties. In Salt Lake City parties to a divorce may choose to discuss and decide their own child support terms, often with the help of their legal representatives.

A child support agreement differs from a court-issued child support order most specifically in its creation. Whereas an order is drafted and promulgated by a judge after considering the evidence in a family law matter, an agreement is created by the parties who sign off on its terms. A divorcing mother and father can maintain more control over the support decisions that will affect their kids if they choose to work out an agreement between them.

What is imputed income for child support?

The Utah child support guidelines use a complex mathematical calculation to determine how much of a parent's income should be set aside for the financial support of their children. Depending on the amount of money that a parent makes, that figure could be more or less than what their children's other parent is required to pay. When a parent earns no income, the court may impute income on them to establish an appropriate child support amount.

Imputed income is not income that a parent actually earns, but income that the parent likely could earn in the workforce. Consider, for example, a parent who is trained and qualified as a registered nurse, but who is not in a job.

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