Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

Salt Lake City Law Blog

The benefits of a pour-over will

A pour-over will can help Utah residents make sure that assets are properly allocated into a trust. In effect, anything that isn't titled for the estate owner's living trust is automatically placed there when he or she passes on. Although it should not be used as a safety net, it can ensure that an estate plan is structured as desired.

It is important to note that a pour-over will is subject to probate even if assets inside a trust are generally not. This means that a court will examine the document to make sure that it is valid under state law. If an individual dies without a will or trust, he or she will be deemed to have died intestate. State law would then determine who would get any assets an individual owned at death.

Reasons driving divorces among older individuals

For many Utah couples who have been married for decades, their relationships represent an important aspect of their lives. Divorces among people age 50 and over, however, have been on the rise compared to other age groups. These are known as gray divorces. Although some people cite growing apart as the reason for their splits, a research project that interviewed 40 men and 40 women revealed very specific and concrete motivations for divorcing.

Some trends emerged along gender lines. Among men, financial issues and approaches to child rearing strained their marriages. In one example, a man reluctantly chose to divorce his wife because of her increasingly destructive spending habits. Another man explained that he resented his wife for undermining his desire to raise their children with a focus on responsibility and pursuing goals.

Probate: What is it and can it be avoided?

If you've recently lost a loved one, you likely have a lot of questions about what comes next. You know you need to close out his or her estate, but are not sure what you have to do in order to make that happen. In Utah, you may be required to go through the probate process. What is that and is there any way to avoid it?

People don't usually hear good things about probate. To most it seems unnecessary, expensive and just a way to drag out estate administration. The truth is that there are benefits to going through probate if doing so proves necessary.

The advantages of using a corporate trustee

Some people in Utah may find a trust a useful part of an estate plan. Trusts may protect assets in a number of different ways. For example, IRAs or life insurance policies can be placed in a trust so they can continue to accrue value while tax-free or tax-deferred. A person may also place assets in a trust with conditions on distributions to beneficiaries such as reaching a certain age. If there is a goal for the trust, such as providing for the education of grandchildren, that can be written into the trust as well.

However, at this point, many people make a common error, and that is appointing a friend or family member as trustee. This is usually done because the friend or family member knows the grantor and the beneficiaries and would understand the grantor's wishes. The problem is that the loved one may be unprepared to manage and administer the trust. The trustee may lack the time and the level of legal and financial knowledge required, particularly given that a trustee is liable for managing assets effectively.

Study: women earning more than their husbands can lead to divorce

Gender roles are rapidly evolving. As these roles change so do the effect they have on married couples in Utah and elsewhere. According to a recent study, a change in a married woman's role in the household often leads to divorce.

The study, which was completed by researchers in Sweden, found that women who enter marriages either not working or earning less than their husbands divorce more frequently when circumstances change, and they begin making more money than their husbands do. The divorce rate for couples that followed traditional gender roles surged in these circumstances compared to couples in gender-equal relationships. In many cases, women would earn less money early in their career due to things like having children or relocating with their spouses. As women's careers grow, many find themselves earning as much or more than their husbands do. With a bigger focus on their jobs, many women find they have less time to devote to household duties. With many husbands unwilling to take on additional household duties, the change in the status quo can lead to conflict and divorce.

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.

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