What Do You Do When You Can’t Find the Decedent’s Will?

If the title of this post describes you, you might want to read my post at Medium.com.

Value Water? Listen to The Water Values Podcast!

In an effort to keep abreast of water, water law, and water rights, I listen regularly to David T. McGimpsey, host of the Water Values Podcast. An attorney with Bigham Greenebaum Doll, David does water law, among other things. In his podcast, he interviews water experts and professionals from all walks of life–engineers, lawyers, hydrologists, water administrators, entrepreneurs, anybody and virtually everybody who does anything with water. I almost always come away from his podcast thinking that was time well spent.

My interest in water law stems from my estate planning and business practice. Water is property and proper estate and business planning ensures that property stays in the right hands over time.

Of course, I’m also interested in water because, as McGimpsey says at the end of every podcast, “Water is our most valuable resource, so please join me by going out into the word and acting like it.” Words to live by.

Concealed Carry in Utah and Wyoming

So I have a friend who lives in Utah and wants a concealed carry permit. Unfortunately, he still drives on a Wyoming drivers license and doesn’t want to give it up. And because of this, he thought he couldn’t get a concealed carry permit, which is a reasonable assumption if you look at the FAQs on Utah’s Department of Public Safety website, which details what documents must accompany an application for a concealed carry permit:

Utah_DL_2016-04-11_0955

 

Given this state of affairs, my friend decided to try to get a permit in Wyoming, but there he ran into the residency requirement. Thus, unless he surrendered his Wyoming driver’ license or until he moved back to Wyoming, he couldn’t have a concealed carry permit. Or so he thought.

I was explaining this conundrum to my gun-wise son the other day, and he replied, “people from out of state get Utah permits all the time. It’s one of the most reciprocated CCPs in the country.”

At the time, I had only read Wyoming’s law, and I thought it was pretty clear that you needed to be a resident to get a permit there, and I assumed it was the same in Utah, but I decided to check the law in both states to see if I had missed something. Turns out I had.

Wyoming’s concealed carry law does require applicants to be a resident, but the law is not so clear as I had thought. It says, in the relevant part, that “The attorney general through the division shall issue a permit to any person who [among other things]:

Is a resident of the United States and has been a resident of Wyoming for not less than six (6) months prior to filing the application. The Wyoming residency requirements of this paragraph do not apply to any person who holds a valid permit authorizing him to carry a concealed firearm authorized and issued by a governmental agency or entity in another state that recognizes Wyoming permits and is a valid statewide permit; (WS §6-8-104 (b)(i)) (emphasis added)

To me, the bolded part appears to say that a non-resident with a valid permit issued in another state can apply for a Wyoming permit. Apparently, I’m wrong, at least according to the people at the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation. According to them, the bolded part means that if someone moves to Wyoming to become a resident and already has a valid permit from their former state, they don’t have to wait six months to apply for a Wyoming permit. Bottom line: you need to be a resident of Wyoming to get a Wyoming permit. My friend was out of luck.

But Utah proved to be a surprise. Though the Department of Public Safety’s website does in fact say applicants need to provide a photocopy of their driver’s license, that is incorrect. In fact, if you click the “download application” link at the bottom of the FAQ, you’ll discover that the actual application says you can provide either a copy of your driver’s license OR a copy of your state-issued ID with your application for a concealed carry permit:

Utah_CCA_2016-04-11_1025

For what it’s worth, I confirmed what I’ve written above with the relevant agencies in both Wyoming and Utah.

My friend was happy to hear the news.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, my son was correct. Utah will issue permits to out-of-state persons for an additional fee.

 

 

Concealed Carry Reciprocity

In case you’re not familiar with it, the NRA’s website contains a treasure trove of information on concealed carry and reciprocity among states. Here’s what the reciprocity map looks like for those holding Wyoming permits:

Wyo_Reciprocity_2016-04-10_2309

 

Here’s the same map for Utah:

Utah_Reciprocity_2016-04-10_2312

 

Conservation Easements: Go Big or Go Home

Briefly, creating a conservation easement can allow you to receive good by doing good. Consider creating one on your  property to protect

“natural, scenic, or open space values of [that] real property, assuring its availability for agricultural, forest, recreational or open space use, protecting natural resources, maintaining or enhancing air or water quality, or preserving the historical, architectural, archeological or cultural aspects of real property”

HeartMt_431511_10150848522799638_729014637_12580484_639413481_nand you might receive a variety of tax benefits, including a reduction in property taxes and a charitable deduction that can be carried forward on future tax returns, among other things. For a farmer or rancher, the easement can have the added benefit of ensuring the farm or ranch stays in the family, because, according to G. Bruce Chilcott and Erin Johnson,

“with most or all of the development potential given away in the easement, the next generation doesn’t have the usual incentive to sell or develop [the property] in a residential or commercial manner.” (Long-Term Planning Issues for Farm and Ranch Owners, Wealth Counsel Quarterly)

The steps to create one are outlined in the Utah and Wyoming state codes and are not particularly hard to follow. But, Chilcott and Johnson caution, don’t go the cheap route. Get it done correctly. In particular, they say,

“In creating a conservation easement, the key to achieving the desired tax benefits is the appraisal. This is no place to skimp on costs or quality, and the appraiser must have special qualifications and significant experience in this arena.”

Make sure you choose an appraiser with a good track record regarding farm and ranch appraisals for conservation easement purposes because “the quality of the appraisal can be instrumental in getting the eventual approval of the department of revenue.”

Some Things I Learned Answering Questions on a Forum for Asking Legal Questions

Yikes_2016-03-07_0843So I sometimes forget that everybody’s smart, just on different subjects. For example, I don’t know much about physics. My teachers tried, but my head could only hold so much gravity and speed of light and such. Well, today I was online in an online forum where non-lawyers posed legal questions to attorneys. These were real life people experiencing real life problems that involved the law in some way or the other.

Now let me be crystal clear: I don’t think these people are dumb. To repeat: we are all “smart,” just on different things. I happen to know a lot about the law, but boy am I at a loss about some other subjects (heck, even about some legal subjects). With that, here are a few things I learned while answering questions:

  1. Many, if not most people, don’t realize that estate taxes are no longer a concern for most of us. Did you know that you and your spouse must be worth almost $11 million before the tax man comes knocking? Yes, you may need to do some planning to make sure you take full advantage of that $11 million threshold, but still.
  2. Many people don’t realize that the First Amendment doesn’t protect them from employers, friends, parents, and the like from infringing on their free speech rights. No, the First Amendment protects us from the government infringing on our rights. And even then the right is not absolute.
  3. More than a few people confuse a living will with a plain old will, also known as a last will and testament. A living will is a document that tells your family and doctor whether you want life support and such should you become incapacity and unable to speak for yourself. A will or last will and testament is what you use to appoint guardians for your children and to give your property away when you die. You can read more here.
  4. A lot of people–especially people down on their luck financially–aren’t aware of the legal resources available to them that are free or at a reduced cost, nor are they aware of the state agencies that might be of help to them–child protective or family services, for example. For the record, in Wyoming you can go to the Wyoming State Bar to find free or reduced-rate legal services. In Utah, you should go here.  In Wyoming, you can find child and family services here.  In Utah, you’ll find them here.
  5. Finally, too many people are way too quick to pull the trigger; that is, they get angry and immediately shout “Medic!!!” I mean, “Lawyer!!!” To those I say, try to work out your problems by yourself and amicably first, especially if it’s family, then resort to the law. But the corollary to that is, if the proper response is legal, then hire an attorney. Trust me on that one.

Now where do I go to find out how fast the speed of light was back in the days of horse and buggy?

Estate Planning: Are You Prepared for Incapacity?

Not too long ago, estate planning was all about the estate tax tail wagging a sometimes reluctant dog. That was unfortunate for a number of reasons, among them, the focus on estate taxes caused planners to look beyond all those who had no estate tax problem. Likewise, those without that estate tax problem walked around unaware that they probably should do some planning nonetheless.DSC02461

Did I just describe you? If so, maybe it’s time think again about the need to do some estate planning.

Though avoiding estate taxes still motivates some (very well off) people to plan, the driving force behind estate planning these days for most people is one or more of the following. The desire to

  • Maintain control of their property while they’re alive and well;
  • Provide for themselves and their loved ones if they become disabled or incapacitated;
  • Give what they have
    • To whom they want,
    • The way they want,
    • When they want, and
  • Minimize the impact of professional fees, court costs, and taxes–typically income taxes first, then estate.

That second item, the one about providing for your family if you’re disabled or otherwise  incapacitated, is a big one. Did you know that a 20 year old has a 1 in 4 chance of becoming disabled before they retire? It gets worse with age. According to a 2005 AARP study,

The lifetime probability facing a 65 year old of developing a disability in at least two primary activities of daily living for at least three months or becoming cognitively impaired is 44 percent for males turning age 65 and 72 percent for females. Therefore, women face a 64 percent higher risk than do men.

A well-drafted estate plan will address those probabilities and ensure that you and your loved ones are better able to deal with a disability or mental incapacity should it happen. That plan will include

  1. The designation of a trustee and/or agent to manage your property while you’re unable;
  2. A living will, so your doctor and loved ones will know what you want done when you’re unable to communicate; and
  3. A health care power of attorney, so your health care agent can do what you would do in the same circumstances–if you were able.

Those last two items collectively are known in Utah and Wyoming as an advance health care directive by the way. Do you have one in place? Do you have a trustee or agent to manage your property in case you no longer can? Then maybe it’s time to do some estate planning.

 

 

The Wyoming State Bar does not certify any lawyer as a specialist or expert. Anyone considering a lawyer should independently investigate the lawyer’s credentials and ability, and not rely upon advertisements or self-proclaimed expertise. This website is an advertisement.