Many estate planning lawyers go into that field after experiencing personal tragedies in their family.  One such lawyer is Stephanie Large, a Personal Family Lawyer in St. George, Utah.  Her story illustrates why estate planning is critical, even if you don’t have children.


Uncle​ ​Cam​ ​loved​ ​Ohio​ ​State,​ ​and​ ​he​ ​was​ ​so​ ​excited​ ​to​ ​get​ ​tickets​ ​to​ ​the​ ​first​ ​college​ ​football​ ​playoff​ ​game​ ​for​ ​Ohio​ ​State in​ ​the​ ​Sugar​ ​Bowl​ ​on​ ​January​ ​1,​ ​2015.  

 

Our​ ​whole​ ​family​ ​had​ ​gone​ ​to​ ​Florida​ ​for​ ​Christmas,​ ​so​ ​I​ ​was​ ​there​ ​to​ ​see​ ​him​ ​actually​ ​get​ ​the​ ​tickets.​ ​He​ ​and​ ​his​ ​wife Alicia​ ​and​ ​their​ ​two​ ​dogs​ ​left​ ​early​ ​on​ ​December​ ​31,​ ​2014​ ​to​ ​drive​ ​from​ ​Florida​ ​to​ ​New​ ​Orleans,​ ​Louisiana.​ ​They​ ​didn’t make​ ​it​ ​very​ ​far. 

 

About​ ​two​ ​hours​ ​after​ ​they​ ​started​ ​driving,​ ​they​ ​were​ ​in​ ​a​ ​car​ ​accident​ ​near​ ​Orlando,​ ​Florida​ ​and​ ​were​ ​killed​ ​instantly. 

 

In​ ​addition​ ​to​ ​the​ ​emotional​ ​shock​ ​of​ ​suddenly​ ​losing​ ​family​ ​members,​ ​everything​ ​was​ ​made​ ​more​ ​painful​ ​once​ ​our​ ​family realized​ ​we​ ​could​ ​not​ ​find​ ​a​ ​will​ ​or​ ​any​ ​estate​ ​plan.​ ​Cam​ ​and​ ​Alicia​ ​didn’t​ ​have​ ​any​ ​children,​ ​and​ ​in​ ​one​ ​sense​ ​that​ ​made things​ ​a​ ​little​ ​bit​ ​easier​ ​in​ ​that​ ​we​ ​didn’t​ ​have​ ​the​ ​potential​ ​of​ ​each​ ​side​ ​of​ ​the​ ​family​ ​fight​ ​over​ ​who​ ​would​ ​raise​ ​the​ ​kids.  However,​ ​this​ ​made​ ​the​ ​property​ ​division​ ​that​ ​much​ ​harder,​ ​as​ ​we​ ​had​ ​to​ ​determine​ ​what​ ​was​ ​Cam’s,​ ​what​ ​was​ ​Alicia’s, and​ ​what​ ​needed​ ​to​ ​be​ ​split.​ ​(If​ ​they​ ​had​ ​had​ ​children,​ ​the​ ​kids​ ​would​ ​have​ ​inherited​ ​everything.) 

 

In​ ​addition​ ​to​ ​having​ ​unequal​ ​retirement​ ​accounts,​ ​some​ ​of​ ​their​ ​real​ ​estate​ ​was​ ​owned​ ​jointly,​ ​and​ ​some​ ​owned​ ​by​ ​only Cam.​ ​This​ ​caused​ ​hard​ ​feelings​ ​between​ ​the​ ​two​ ​sides​ ​of​ ​the​ ​family,​ ​as​ ​one​ ​family​ ​would​ ​inherit​ ​more​ ​than​ ​the​ ​other.  

 

Because​ ​they​ ​owned​ ​real​ ​estate​ ​in​ ​several​ ​different​ ​states,​ ​probate​ ​cases​ ​had​ ​to​ ​be​ ​opened​ ​in​ ​several​ ​states.​ ​(Probate is​ ​the​ ​court​ ​process​ ​to​ ​transfer​ ​property​ ​after​ ​someone’s​ ​death.)​ ​This​ ​process​ ​took​ ​nearly​ ​two​ ​years​ ​and​ ​costs​ ​nearly​ ​a third​ ​of​ ​the​ ​estate​ ​in​ ​attorney’s​ ​fees. 

 

My​ ​uncle’s​ ​coworkers​ ​knew​ ​that​ ​Cam​ ​had​ ​attended​ ​a​ ​presentation​ ​by​ ​an​ ​estate​ ​planning​ ​attorney​ ​and​ ​said​ ​afterward that​ ​he​ ​needed​ ​to​ ​do​ ​some​ ​planning.​ ​And​ ​one​ ​of​ ​my​ ​uncle’s​ ​friends​ ​claimed​ ​that​ ​he​ ​had​ ​once​ ​seen​ ​a​ ​disc​ ​that​ ​was supposed​ ​to​ ​be​ ​given​ ​to​ ​my​ ​grandfather​ ​if​ ​something​ ​were​ ​to​ ​happen​ ​to​ ​Cam.​ ​We​ ​never​ ​found​ ​such​ ​a​ ​disc.​ ​We​ ​wonder​ ​if Cam​ ​tried​ ​to​ ​do​ ​his​ ​estate​ ​plan​ ​himself​ ​and​ ​the​ ​disc​ ​was​ ​misplaced​ ​or​ ​lost​ ​or​ ​even​ ​intentionally​ ​hidden.​ ​We​ ​will​ ​never know. 

 

After​ ​their​ ​deaths,​ ​my​ ​mom​ ​(Cam’s​ ​sister)​ ​longed​ ​to​ ​be​ ​able​ ​to​ ​see​ ​the​ ​pictures​ ​and​ ​videos​ ​that​ ​Alicia​ ​had​ ​taken​ ​on​ ​her phone​ ​as​ ​we​ ​were​ ​all​ ​together​ ​that​ ​Christmas​ ​just​ ​before​ ​they​ ​died.​ ​There​ ​are​ ​ways​ ​to​ ​pass​ ​on​ ​digital​ ​access​ ​to​ ​pictures and​ ​videos,​ ​email​ ​and​ ​social​ ​media,​ ​etc.,​ ​but​ ​if​ ​you​ ​don’t​ ​plan​ ​for​ ​it​ ​before​ ​you​ ​die​ ​it​ ​is​ ​difficult​ ​to​ ​get​ ​access​ ​to​ ​afterwards. 

 

All​ ​of​ ​these​ ​things​ ​made​ ​me​ ​realize​ ​that​ ​estate​ ​planning​ ​is​ ​such​ ​a​ ​vital​ ​service​ ​that​ ​I​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​provide it.​ ​I​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​make sure​ ​that​ ​I​ ​could​ ​help​ ​families​ ​create​ ​plans​ ​that​ ​would​ ​make​ ​tragedies​ ​a​ ​little​ ​less​ ​painful​ ​because​ ​passing​ ​property​ ​would be​ ​more​ ​straightforward,​ ​and​ ​would​ ​help​ ​pass​ ​on​ ​the​ ​memories​ ​that​ ​are​ ​more​ ​precious​ ​than​ ​money.”

It’s not just about the money.

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