Drafting a Last Will and Testament in Phoenix
Most people know that they should have a last will and testament, but thinking about your own death is hard, and many people procrastinate completing the task. However, creating a will does not need to be stressful, especially if you are working with the right attorney. Below is some general information about drafting a will in Phoenix.
Who Can Make a Will in Phoenix?
Although the majority of people living in Phoenix can draft a will, Arizona law does provide some limitations.
- You must be over 18. Minors are not allowed to create wills in Phoenix.
- You must be competent. Under Arizona law, this means that you understand that you are making a will, you understand what property you own, and you understand who you are leaving your property to. If someone has advanced dementia or Alzheimer’s, they may not be deemed competent.
- You cannot be under undue influence. You must be making your choices and acting out of your own free will. This concern arises most often in cases of elder abuse.
What Should You Include in Your Will?
Every will is different, and you should work with an estate planning attorney to ensure that your will fits your unique circumstances. Below are the main areas that you should cover in your last will and testament in Phoenix.
- Choose an Executor. The executor (or personal representative) is the person who will be administering your will. They will ensure that your wishes are carried out and be responsible for tasks such as distributing property, paying debts, and filing taxes. It is essential to pick a trustworthy and responsible person. You should designate a back-up executor if your first choice is unwilling or unable to perform.
- Pick Beneficiaries. You should include who you are going to leave your property after you die. Generally, these include spouses, children, siblings, and charities. It is important to be clear and specific in your choices.
- Instructions for the Distribution of Assets. Your will should define what your property includes and how you want it distributed. Your will does not need to include assets that pass outside of probate, such as life insurance policies, trusts, or real estate held jointly.
- Choose a Legal Guardian for Minor Children. If you are a parent of minor children, you should pick the person who will take care of your children if you pass away. You should speak to this individual ahead of time, so you know that they willingly accept the role. Additionally, you should designate a conservator who will manage assets that you leave to your minor children until they reach the age of majority.
- Funeral Instructions. Including funeral details will help your family deal with the final arrangements after your death. Having these instructions in place can be a great gift to your family at a time of stress and grieving.
How to Execute a Will in Phoenix?
For your will to be valid in Phoenix, you must follow specific procedures mandated by Arizona law.
- You (“the testator”) must sign your will. If you are physically unable, you can direct another to do so in your presence.
- Two individuals must witness and sign the will. Your witnesses must be:
- Over 18,
- Mentally competent,
- Present when you sign, and
- Sign a reasonable time after witnesses.
It is ideal if the witnesses are not beneficiaries under the will. The will is not invalid if the witnesses are beneficiaries, but there is a greater chance that it could be challenged in court.
- For the will to be self-proven, a notary must sign a self-proving affidavit. If the will is self-proved, it means that its authenticity will not be challenged. A non-self-proved will is valid in Phoenix, but it requires the presence and testimony of the witnesses to be valid and genuine. This can result in a longer and more complicated probate process.
There is an exception to the witness requirement for wills that are handwritten and signed by the testator. This is called a holographic will. However, these wills are much more likely to be challenged.
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