Planning for a future that you will not be a part of can be scary and overwhelming but not putting the proper estate plan in place can have serious consequences when the unthinkable does happen. Estate planning should be viewed as a gift that you are giving your loved ones to reduce the amount of stress when they are going through the grieving process.
Anyone over the age of 18, no matter their net worth, can benefit from an estate plan. Here are some of the things that you should know about estate planning in Phoenix, Arizona.
Arizona Estate Planning Tools
Estate planning involves much more than writing a will. There are many tools available to address different scenarios. Below are some of the estate planning instruments that might be the right fit for you.
- Last Will and Testament: A last will and testament is a written document that describes what you want to have happen to your property upon your death. A will can also document who the guardians of your children will be. A will goes through probate (the court system) and becomes public record.
- Revocable Living Trust: A revocable living trust can function similar to a will in that it can dictate where your property will go upon your death. It is made during your lifetime and can be modified as your circumstances or wishes change. A trust can also govern when you want someone to receive property and when you do not want them to receive property, for example reaching a certain age or milestone. Additionally, a trust avoids probate, meaning that it will not become public record. There also may be tax advantages to using a trust that you should explore with your attorney. Even if you create a trust, a will is still necessary to name guardians for your children and to distribute any assets accidentally or intentionally left out of the trust.
- Durable Power of Attorney: A durable power of attorney is a legal document that authorizes a designated person to act on your behalf in certain situations, like signing contracts or filing lawsuits. A durable power of attorney can be very broad or very specific. It is valid through incapacity and ends upon death.
- Health Care Power of Attorney: A health care power of attorney is a legal document that authorizes a designated person to make health decisions on your behalf in the event that you are unable to make them for yourself.
- Other Tools Available: Below is a list of other estate planning instruments that are available and may be needed in your situation.
- Mental Health Care Power of Attorney
- Final Disposition Instructions
- Irrevocable Trust
- Special Need Trust
- Parental Power of Attorney
- Domestic Partnership Agreement
- Prenuptial Agreement
Consequences of Dying Intestate
Dying intestate means that you die without creating a will. It is a common misconception that if you do not create a will, your family will be able to decide what happens to your assets when you die. This is incorrect. Rather, Arizona state law governs the process and dictates who gets what and when. Importantly, if you have minor children the state, not you or family, will decide who raises your children. The default plan that must be followed under Arizona law is very often not the plan that you would have chosen.
Additionally, if you die intestate, your estate will go through probate and it will become public record. As a result, valid creditors will be alerted and come after your estate for any monies due. Predators may also come after your estate and make fake claims.
Your Phoenix, Arizona Estate Plan
Estate laws vary by state, so it is important that you find a local Phoenix estate planning attorney to educate you about your estate planning options. Many people don’t realize the wide range of estate planning instruments that are at their disposal. Contact us online or call the Nicole Pavlik Law Firm today at 602-635-6176 to discuss the estate planning options that are best for you and your family.