Tag Archives: death

Events that Motivate Us to Create an Estate Plan

It is common for people to procrastinate in creating their estate plan. Nobody likes to think about dying or how their family will move forward without them. At the same time, most people feel guilty if they don’t have an estate plan in place.

Over our years as estate planning attorneys, we have seen certain events cause our clients to jump-start their estate planning. Below are a few of the events that cause people to stop procrastinating and contact us:

  • A serious accident or troublesome medical diagnosis
  • The death of a close friend or relative
  • The birth of a child or grandchild
  • A vacation, especially one out of the country
  • Marriage or divorce

There are many other life events that can force you to think about your mortality and motivate you to get your affairs in order. Whatever circumstances, you are facing, you should put creating or updating an estate plan at the top of your “to do” list. You don’t want to wait until you are pressured to meet a deadline to make these crucial decisions. However, if you have a life event motivating you to take action, take the first by contacting us to schedule your initial consultation.

If you have procrastinated, and you believe that death is imminent, we can still help! Many lawyers, our firm included, will meet with clients at home or in a hospital, or do what is necessary to help a client who is dying or close to death and give them peace of mind. We think it’s worth it to take that concern off your mind. Let us help!

The Astill Law Office has provided high quality legal services for over 30 years. We specialize in wills, trusts, estate planning, and asset protection. If you have any questions about creating a Trust, Will, or estate planning in general, contact The Astill Law Office at 801-438-8698.

Why do we Avoid Estate Planning?

Most people believe that estate planning is important and they have every intention of doing it, yet they continue to procrastinate creating a plan. While no two individuals are the same, below are a few of the most common reasons people delay establishing their estate plan:

Fear of Death

Most people do not like to think about (or talk about) their own death. Estate planning forces you to think about how to provide for your loved ones after you are gone. You must make decisions on how to distribute your assets and who to appoint to be the guardian of your minor children. These types of decisions are uncomfortable and difficult. However, dying without providing for your loved ones is even worse. While discussing your estate plan can be awkward, you might be surprised at the peace of mind you feel once the task is done. Also, it will show your family members that you care enough to plan for their future.

Reduce Stress

If you have strained relationships with some of your family members, it can add tension to the estate planning process. You may have specific goals that you want to accomplish with your estate plan, but your relatives may be placing pressure on you to do otherwise. It is important to work with an experienced attorney who can help you create the plan you want that will achieve your goals. Additionally, you should remember that this is your estate plan. Be honest with your loved ones and listen to what they have to say, but ultimately it is your decision on how to handle your estate.

Loss of Control over Finances

Some people incorrectly believe that by creating an estate plan they will lose control over their money and/or their property. Ironically, by establishing a comprehensive estate plan, it provides you with financial security and you are better able to maintain control. Without proper planning, if someone becomes incapacitated, the probate courts take control and you lose all control. We can help you protect your assets from creditors, provide for your family’s future, and create strategies for reducing the amount of taxes your estate must pay.

If you are ready to set aside your fears and take the first step in creating an estate plan, call us. The Astill Law Office has provided high quality legal services for over 30 years. We specialize in wills, trusts, estate planning, and asset protection. If you have any questions about creating a Trust, Will, or estate planning in general, contact The Astill Law Office at 801-438-8698.



Upon the Death of a Loved One


Immediate Things:

  1. Secure the house.
  2. Take care of pets.
  3. Forward mail.
  4. Shut off or curtail use of utilities (or not, depending on circumstances, i.e., if you have to keep the heat on, water the lawn, etc.)
  5. Clean out the refrigerator.
  6. Stop the newspaper.
  7. Check with a friendly neighbor to keep you apprised if there is any activity at the house.
  8. Tell the Landlord if the residence is a rental.

Longer Term:

Previously we published a lenthy checklist. Look at our website or Facebook page for a copy of this checklist. The Checklist is not exhaustive (though we think it is pretty thorough), and not every item will be applicable in every case. Sometimes you may need to make adjustments — such as when your family member had a living trust, and no probate proceeding will be necessary, or if you have been responsible for managing their bill-paying for several years before the death. Still, we think it will help you organize the papers, questions and information you need to properly take care of the legal and financial issues that will arise.

A couple more caveats:

  • Please remember that we live and practice in Utah. This checklist may not be accurate, or as useful, if you live somewhere else, or your family member died somewhere else.
  • Several items on our checklist encourage you to collect information of various kinds. In most cases, that’s so that your visit to our offices will be more productive. Sometimes it is to help you answer questions from heirs, creditors or others as you get more deeply into administering your loved one’s estate. If you do collect forms, mailings, etc., keep them in a central place for several years after you have concluded the estate administration.
  • If you are the successor Trustee or Personal Representative, where we indicate that you should keep track of your time and expenditures, we really mean that you should — and from the very beginning of your work. Even if you have no intention of charging a fee, we strongly recommend that you keep track.
  • If you are not the person who will be in charge of the decedent’s estate, that does not prevent you from printing out the checklist, monitoring progress by the person who is in charge, and figuring out how you can be helpful.

Common Questions:

1. How quickly do you need to get to the lawyer’s office to review what needs to be done? Usually it is not the most pressing issue, but you should expect to make an appointment within about two to four weeks. If you are the surviving spouse, it probably can wait longer. If you are in town for a short time you might well want to meet right away, at least briefly. But here’s another reality: when you call, you may be looking at a two-week wait before an appointment. That gives us time to schedule you, and to get a questionnaire out to you to help with the collection of information. Usually nothing can be done for a week or two anyway. So don’t wait two weeks to call for an appointment, and then expect it to be immediate. If there are pressing needs, we make time at our office as necessary.

2. Do you need to see the lawyer who prepared the will or trust? Not necessarily. It may be more comfortable and efficient, and the lawyer might have even kept the original documents (we sometimes do that for clients). For example, we maintain detailed electronic files of notes and documents for our clients and most have become good friends by the time they pass away. This helps because we can be up to speed quickly and provide a lot of assistance. Not every firm does this. But there is no compelling need to return to the decedent’s lawyer. It probably does make sense (in most cases) to meet with a lawyer in the community where your family member lived and died.

3. How long will the process take, and how much will the lawyer charge? It’s really impossible to generalize in any useful way. You might well be surprised at how little it costs. On the other hand, we regularly see family members who think there will be no need for a probate or any costly legal proceedings, only to find out that something was wrong in the estate setup, or something got changed or overlooked.

4. What are some of the more important points in our checklist? Here are a few we’d like to highlight:

  • Assembling a list of bank accounts, annuities, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, brokerage accounts and real estate will speed the process up immeasurably. It will likely also make it much easier for the lawyer to realistically estimate the cost and time to get the probate (or trust) administration completed. Same for creditors.
  • The funeral home will help you determine how many death certificates you will need, and how to get them ordered. You might not have visited with us yet, but here’s a practical reality: if you order them through the funeral home, you will get them faster and more cheaply. If we have to get them later it will be time consuming and more expensive. So when you’re figuring out how many you need, estimate high (at least 5 copies and depending on the estate, we sometimes recommend 10 copies).
  • At some point we’re going to need names and addresses for all the heirs and beneficiaries. For some we will also need dates of birth and even Social Security numbers. You can speed the process up if you start collecting that information.
  • Forwarding the mail is critical. It needs to get done, and it is often the easiest way to get information about assets and bills.

5. One last point we want to make: if you had a power of attorney for the decedent, it is no longer valid. While a “durable” power of attorney survives even if the signer becomes incapacitated, no power of attorney survives the signer’s death. Do not sign checks, make credit card charges, or do anything else using the power of attorney.

Call us to discuss what needs to be done next. We are always very sorry to hear of someone’s loss. We are here to help.

When Should I Update my Estate Plan?

AlarmClockMany individuals think that their estate planning is complete as soon as they have created their estate plan. However, it is important to remember that your estate plan should be updated as your life circumstances change. It is commonly stated that you should have your estate plan reviewed every few years (at a minimum), or when one of the following events occurs:

  • Marriage. Don’t assume that your spouse will automatically be appointed as the executor of your estate. If you die without a will (intestate), the law of the applicable state will determine how your assets are distributed. By regularly updating your estate plan, you can ensure that the person you want to administer your estate is appointed and you can set forth how you want your estate distributed.
  • Children. When you have a child (including adoption), your estate plan should be updated to include the child. An estate plan can appoint a guardian for any minor children in the event both parents die. You can also create a trust as part of your plan and dictate when and how your children will receive their inheritance.
  • Divorce or death. You should review your estate plan if you get a divorce or your spouse dies to determine whether they still reflect your wishes. Most people want to name somebody other than their ex-spouse as their health care proxy, power of attorney, or as a beneficiary of your estate.
  • Remarriage. If you get remarried, your estate plan should be updated to include your new spouse. This is especially important if you or your new spouse has children from prior marriages because you will want to ensure that your children are provided for as you intend.
  • Retirement. When you reach retirement age, it is essential to review all of your finances, including your estate planning documents.
  • Significant financial changes. If your finances undergo a significant change, especially if your estate has dramatically increased in value, it is important to update your estate plan to determine if you need to shelter assets or take action to avoid certain taxes.

The above are just a few examples of events that warrant reviewing your estate plan. If you have an existing estate plan that you have not reviewed in several years, let us help you ensure it still reflects your wishes.

The Astill Law Office has provided high quality legal services for over 30 years. We specialize in wills, trusts, estate planning, and asset protection. If you have any questions about creating a Trust, Will, or estate planning in general, contact The Astill Law Office at 801-438-8698.