Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Think Twice Before Deregulating the Law

Our letter to the editor was published in regard to an article in the Wall Street Journal that discussed the possibility of deregulating the practice of law. You can read our response as well as a couple of other individuals' responses here.

Definition of the Week: Adult

Adult: In Utah "the period of minority extends in males and females to the age of 18 years; but all minors obtain their majority by marriage." Utah Code 15-2-1

In regard to payment of social security benefits, the term "adult" may refer to an individual who has graduated from high school or is older than eighteen (18) years of age, whichever is later, but in all cases an individual who is nineteen (19) years of age or older is considered an adult.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Phases of Grief

Grief is the physical, emotional, and mental condition brought on by a loss, such as the death of someone you love. Grief is the body's natural ability to heal emotional injury. Grieving can be hard. Lack of understanding makes it harder. Grief is a personal process characterized by three phases:

Phase 1--Shock (Denial)
This begins with the news of the death, but the reality of the death may occur in a few minutes, a few days or even several months later. This phase "protects" the survivor from the emotional impact of the death. Common characteristics of this phase iclude a need to stay busy, confusion, an inability to express emotion, inability to function and an overwhelming sense that somthing is wrong without grasping the reality of the loss.

Phase 2--The Expression of Grief
Anger, bargaining, and/or depression may last for several days to several years. They are mental, physical and emotional manifestations that may come and go or appear in any combination.

  • Mental: Preoccupation of the death: how it happened, the person that died. Inabilities to focus, to remember or to be productive are mental expressions of grief. You may have paranoid or inconsistent thoughts. You may even want to make radical changes in all aspects of your life, but it is imprerative that you take time to think clearly and not make impuslive decisions that you may later regret.

  • Physical: Fatigue, weakness, insomnia, weight gain or loss, headaches, the tendency to catch stress-related illnesses, a sense of vulnerability, discomfort with too much activity or stimulation are all physical expressions of grief.

  • Emotional: Intense sadness, fear, anxiety, anger, depression, loneliness, confusion, helplessness, isolation and guilt are emotional expressions of grief. The inabilities to feel love or give love, compulsive behavior, thinking that you are "crazy" are often felt by those in grief.

Experiencing these symptoms is quite normal and in many ways are a necessary part of the healing process of grief. If you feel, however, that you are not able to handle your grief on your own, you may want to consider professional help.

Phase 3--Acceptance
You will know when you have reached this stage when you are able to recall memories of your deceased loved one fondly and pleasantly instead of painfully. Once acceptance has been reached, planning for the future becomes more realistic. A new and wiser you will have emerged.
The rate of acceptance often depends on your ability to feel and express your grief openly. Take time out from your usual standars of behavior. Surround yourself with people that you feel comfortable with, tell them how you feel and what you need from them. Feel and express your emtions. It is okay to cry, to laugh, or to be silent. Write things down about your feelings, your wishes, regrets and joys. Give yourself breaks from grieving to rest, have fun and be nurtured. Try to eat well. Try to get your sleep. Above all, give yourself time.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Joke of the Week

I've got to the age when I need my false teeth and my hearing aid before I can ask where I've left my glasses.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Book Review: "Little Dorrit"

Some of Charles Dicken's greatest works use inheritance to move the stories along. We have mentioned Charles Dicken's "Bleakhouse" in a previous blog. Another of Charles Dicken's great books is "Little Dorrit." Much of the story follows individuals who grapple with the consequences that come with having a lack of money or an over abundance of money. There is the burning of a will and unclaimed inheritance reclaimed by relatives. There are family secrets to protect and the ultimate triumph of love over money. It really is a great book. The BBC production starring Claire Foy, Matthew Macfayden, Tom Courtenay, et al. (2009) brings to life this wonderful book.

Little Dorrit in DVD
Little Dorrit in paperback

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Special Needs Trust Reminder

It is crucial for you to consider a special needs trust if you or your child can qualify for government benefits based on special needs. Here is an article regarding the importance of special needs trusts. Look at our website here for additional information regarding special needs trusts and the services we provide in this area of law.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Definition of the Week: Trust

Trust: In the briefest of terms, a trust is an entity, created pursuant to state and federal law, which can own assets, and which directs, subject to law, how the assets are to be administered and distributed by a named trustee for the benefit of named beneficiaries.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Response To The Editor

Yesterday, August 22, 2011, we reviewed an article in the Wall Street Journal titled, "Time to Deregulate the Practice of Law." You can read the full article here. We responded to the article with a letter to the editor. This is our full response to the article:

August 22, 2011


In regard to Winston and Crandall's essay "Time to Deregulate the Practice of Law" (WSJ 8/22/2011). A will is a simple document indicating how you want your assets distributed at your death. Simple. Anybody can write on a napkin, "Distribute my assets equally to my children." Simple.

Then you die. Your children are now faced with the processes of actually transferring your home, your bank account, your investment or retirement accounts, your life insurance policy, your car to themselves. The children must deal with county recorders and deeds, bank managers and signature cards, investment firms and contracts, life insurance companies and policies, the division of motor vehicles and titles. Dealing with these entitites may also be simple . . . or not.

To think that a will is the beginning and end of the legal issues involved in transferring assets at death exhibits a gross ignorance of reality, let alone the law, exactly the level of gross ignorance companies like LegalZoom (praised by the authors) deeply rely upon in selling their wares, but the kind of gross ignorance I did not expect from senior fellows at the Brookings Institution.

Craig E. Hughes
Hughes Estate Group, Attorneys

Monday, August 22, 2011

Joke of the Week

Dude Awakening (WSJ 8/28/98)

When they told me life was
Different from school
I dismissed it with a scoff.
Then I suffered a shock
When I first found
You don't get summers off!

Paul Richards

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Definition of the Week: Estate Planning

Estate Planning: To understand what estate planning is, we need to first ask, "What is an estate?" The word "estate" simply refers to the things you own, your assets. For example, money in a checking account is an asset you own. If you have a checking account, you have an asset and you have an estate. Equity in your house or a life insurance policy or anything else you own are additional assets comprising your estate.

Estate planning is planning how your estate will be managed when you cannot manage it yourself. If you ever become mentally incapacitated or after you die, an estate plan will control how your checking account and other assets are managed and distributed. If you want to decide who receives your assets, and how and when they receive your assets, when you cannot make those decisions in person, then estate planning is for you.

Estate planning is like building a bridge over a chasm. The chasm is a deep gorge and dangerous river of confusion, wasted money, resentments, fraud, and probate litigation. Point A on this side of the chasm is the date of your incapacity or death. At point B on the side of the chasm stand your heirs, your beneficiaries, those you care most about. Estate planning is the bridge, the road over the deep gorge and dangerous river, which is used to transfer your assets safely, efficiently, and peacefully from point A to those you care most about at point B.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Joke of the Week

Excerpt from the classified section of a city newspaper.

Get rid of aunts. Zap does the job in 24 hours.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Book Review: "Asset Protection"

This book review is more of a book recommendation. When potential clients come to our office and ask us about asset protection strategies, we recommend they read "Asset Protection" by Jay D. Adkisson and Christopher M. Riser. Once they have read the book, we suggest they set up an appointment to meet with us regarding asset protection.

You can review and order the book here on

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Definition of the Week: Estate

Estate: The word "estate" simply refers to the things you own, your assets. For example, money in a checking account is an asset you own. If you have a checking account, you have an asset and you have an estate. Equity in your house or a life insurance policy or anything else you own are additional assets comprising your estate.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Do You Know How Your Home is Titled? For Sure?

I ran across an article discussing the importance of knowing how your home is owned, specifically if the home is owned by more than one owner. The article focuses on the importance of knowing whether or not the property is owned as joint tenants or as tenants in common. The way the property is owned (joint tenants or tenants in common) makes a difference in how the property is owned upon the death of one of the property's owners. You can read the full article here.

In Utah, real property is owned as joint tenants if (1) a married couple expressly indicates on the deed of ownership that they are husband and wife or (2) the words "joint tenancy interest with rights of survivorship" or similar verbiage are expressly included on the deed of ownership. If the deed does not have the above language, the owners are considered tenants in common.

In 2011, the Utah State Legislature amended the joint tenancy statute in Utah. The new statute makes it clear that entities of any kind, including corporations and trusts, cannot own property in joint tenancy. Only individual natural persons can own property in joint tenancy if expressly indicated on the deed of ownership.

You can read the full Utah joint tenancy statute here.

Check us out here regarding asset ownership issues.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Talking to Your Parents About Their Finances

I read an article in the Wall Street Journal's weekend edition. The article discusses ways for family members to approach talking to aging parents about their financial needs or concerns. The full article can be found here.

Search our website here for our family approach to estate planning.

Joke of the Week

George M------, son of Prof. and Mrs. E. S. M------, is now connected permanently with the ------- funeral home, where he will be pleased to see his friends. Shreveport paper.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Book Review: "The Anatomy of Peace"

When we meet with potential probate litigation clients, we recommend they read "The Anatomy of Peace" by The Arbinger Institute. On the outset, it might seem strange to be recommeding a book that discusses peace with a potential probate litigation client. However, litigation is ugly and can ruin family relationships forever. "The Anatomy of Peace" gives a formula for dealing with conflict while still maintaining a heart at peace towards those individuals on the opposite side of any conflict. I would highly recommend reading this book even if your family will never experience probate litigation.

You can obtain a copy of "The Anatomy of Peace" here.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Estate Planning Fraud Alert

There is danger in using online documents. Read our article here on "The Dangers of Internet Documents." This blog posting is to give you an update on the two class action suits mentioned in the article.

The Missouri Case:
Todd Janson, et al. v., Inc., Case 1:10-CV-04018-NKL

Synopsis of case: This class action suit claims that, Inc. ("Legalzoom"), an internet provider of legal documents, is unlawfully practicing law in Missouri by providing legal documents and instructions over the internet.

A judge ruled against Legalzoom's request to dismiss the case. The case goes to trial August 22, 2011. We will keep you posted.

The California Case:
Webster v., Inc., No. BC 438637 (Los Angeles Super. Ct. filed May 27, 2010)

Synopsis of case: Katherine Webster, the executor of an estate, claimed that Legalzoom created a trust that was legally defective causing the estate to pay over $10,000 to undo damage done by the flawed trust. Ms. Webster claimed that Legalzoom used unfair and deceptive business practices as well as engaging in the unauthorized practice of law.

Legalzoom is settling with the Plaintiffs in the Webster case which will also resolve a related class action suit, Whiting v., Inc. Legalzoom is not accepting blame for the defective trust. They are offering to settle in order to stop legal costs in the courts. We will keep you posted.

Future Updates:
We will be covering a serious of online articles regarding the issues of the unlawful practice of law and online legal document companies in the next few weeks. It is a serious matter, and it is important for you to be aware of the issues in order to protect yourself from being harmed.

A Family Business That Is Still In The Family

Sometimes it is hard to get a family business past the first generation. A success story is L.L. Bean founded by Leon Leonwoood Bean. He began his business selling the "Maine Hunting Shoe" which is now called the "Bean Boot." The success of the business can be boiled down to staying true to the original business policy--quality outdoor products, especially good boots. In 1960, Leon Gorman, Mr. Bean's grandson, took the company from being a $4 million company to a $1 billion company. Mr. Gorman stepped down in 2001, but the business is still run by the family. L.L. Bean continues to be successful selling outdoor products, especially the "Bean Boot."

Read a fun article about Mr. Bean in the Wall Street Journal here.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Definition of the Week

Attorney: The word "attorney" simply means "representative." An attorney may be a person with a law degree, formally authorized to draft legal documents for others and represent others before judges. Or an attorney may be a non-lawyer or "attorney-in-fact" whom you name to represent you in a power of attorney.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Do Your Assets Match Your Estate Plan and How Healthy Are Your Assets?

We have found in reviewing many estate plans that a person's assets are not always coordinated with their estate plan thus undermining the plan and the effectiveness of the assets in fufilling the plan.

For example, parents might instruct their executor upon their deaths to set aside money for their children's educations. The parents' assets might consist mainly of retirement accounts. In following the estate plan, the executor would need to liquidate the retirement accounts to pay for the children's educations. In liquidating the retirement accounts, the parents' estate would be faced with paying potential penalties and forced taxes. Careful planning would enable the parents to fund educations while still preserving their retirement account tax status.

As another example, consider an individual who wants his estate to go to his children from his first marriage and still provide for his new spouse. When the assets are reviewed, the estate is real estate rich but cash poor. Without careful planning, the individual's executor might find it impossible to meet the needs of the surviving spouse while preserving the children's interests in the real estate.

We have also found in reviewing clients' assets that many clients' assets have become old and stale. For example, an insurance policy over five years old should be reviewed and possibly updated to take advantage of better premiums and better coverage. The same goes for investments. It is important to have your investments reviewed in order to ensure they are performing at their optimum capacity.

Here at Hughes Estate Group, we make sure our clients' assets match their estate plans. We also offer free evaluations to check the health of clients' assets. Getting estate planning documents in place is crucial. It is just as important to make sure your assets fit your plan and each asset is healthy to meet the needs of your plan.

Joke of the Week

City Aunt: "And what brought you to town, Henry?"

Henry: "Oh, wll, I jus' come to see the sights, and I thought that I'd call on you first."

Monday, August 1, 2011

Unique Way Of Sharing Wealth During Life

Jennings Osborne died this past Wednesday, July 27, 2011. He was the founder of the Arkansas Research Medical Testing Center in Little Rock, Arkansas. With the money he made from his testing center, Mr. Osborne turned to philanthropy. Mr. Osborne would host free tailgate parties before University of Arkansas Razorbacks' football games. He would sponsor fireworks displays. But the thing he became famous for was creating Christmas-light displays.

Mr. Osborne started his Christmas-light displays with his own home. In 1993, his neighbors sued saying his three million lights, two 80-foot Chrstimas-tree-shaped masts, and other Christmas paraphernalia was a nusance to the neighborhood. He lost. But this did not stop him. Instead, he began creating big Christmas displays elsewhere like the governor's mansion in Little Rock, Arkansas, former President Jimmy Carter's home in Plains, Georgia, Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and Elvis Presley's Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee.

Here is a nice obiturary article from the Wall Street Journal written by Stephen Miller regarding Jennings Osborne.

See us here for information regarding estate planning.