Sheep Ranching and Estate Planning


My great-grandfather earned a living raising sheep in Parowan, Utah in the late 1800s.  My father was always referred to as the sheepherder-at-law.  Dad retired and the sheep business continues with me.  Sometimes I wonder why I bought off on this idea of keeping a herd of sheep, especially if I have an unpleasant task at the farm in the middle of the night.  I suppose it is an effort to stay in tune with my ancestors.

The wool from a herd of sheep is sold once a year at a wool market in Salt Lake City.  The wool quality is graded by a random sampling and sold in bulk based on that sampling.  It is not a problem for the wool buyer if some wool is of worse quality and some of better quality as long as it averages out.

In one respect, wool buying is like estate planning; there are some estate plans that are of good quality and some that are of poor quality.  A good quality estate plan will be written well and allow you to arrange for the management and preservation of your assets during your lifetime, provide how your assets will be transferred or disposed of upon your death, allow you to designate the beneficiaries of your wealth, and minimize taxes and other costs.  An average quality estate plan may work, but it may also result in significant delay and increased expense.  With a poor quality estate plan, you may have been better off to have no estate plan at all.  Estate planning is different from wool buying in that an average plan or a poorly written plan can be devastating to your estate and the law of averages will not accomplish your goals or console your beneficiaries.

The best way to obtain a good quality estate plan is do your homework and carefully select an estate planning attorney to assist you.  The legal system is extremely complex.  It is imperative when searching for an attorney to carefully select an attorney that primarily practices in the area of law in which you need assistance.  Thus, if you need assistance with estate planning, you should seek recommendations from trusted friends or advisors for an attorney that practices primarily in the area of estate planning.  Price is not always a guide since estate planning services are not a fungible good, cheaper is not always better, likewise, a more expensive plan does not necessarily equate to a better plan. You should be comfortable with the attorney you select and the attorney should take the time to meet with you personally, discuss various estate planning alternatives for your situation, and learn from you what you wish to accomplish with your estate plan.

I invite you to consider investing some time in your estate planning.  Estate planning is an invaluable tool that provides increased financial security and peace of mind for yourself and your loved ones.  A basic estate plan should include the following documents:  (1) Revocable Trust (a trust is not for everyone); (2) Last Will & Testament; (3) Durable Financial Power of Attorney; (4) Advanced Health Care Directive; and (5) various ancillary documents in a trust plan, such as a deed transferring real property, certificate of trust and a personal property memorandum.  If you are unsure if your estate plan accomplishes your goals, then you should retain an estate planning attorney to review and explain your documents to you.  With proper estate planning documents you won’t need to count sheep at night because you will have peace of mind and be able to sleep well.

JensenBayles, LLP provides a broad spectrum of legal services.  Thomas J. Bayles has been actively providing advice in the areas of trusts, wills, probate and tax planning in the St. George market for over 18 years. Please visit our web site www.jensenbayles.com or call 435-674-9718 and ask for Thomas J. Bayles or Phillip G. Gubler. The information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be construed as legal advice.