ARIZONA ESTATE PLANNING
Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way
I am an Arizona estate planning attorney in Phoenix, Arizona. What does that mean exactly? Basically it means that I can put together legal documents that will help you and your loved ones if you are incapacitated or have passed away. The whole process, start to finish, takes usually about 5-7 hours. Just 5-7 hours!
Estate planning is actually so much more than just putting together legal documents. Look at all the things estate planning can do for you. It can help you:
- Make a list of particular personal items you want to go to particular people.
- Decide who will raise your children and specify that your children maintain particular family relationships.
- Lay out how your children will receive money so they don’t become zillionaires at age 18.
- Manage the painful issues that arise when a child is abusing drugs or has made other very difficult life choices.
- Protect your special needs adult child from losing his/her governmental benefits.
- Divvy up your assets between your children from a prior marriage and your new spouse.
- State your thoughts on when to pull the plug.
- Give authority to someone to access all of your assets to take care of you, including funds in retirement accounts.
- Have the right papers in place if you should end up with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
- Give authority to someone to handle your digital assets and online accounts.
- Make sure that the State of Arizona and our court system never make decisions for you.
- Let your loved ones know your views on:
- Organ donation
- Cremation or burial
- Being locked in that nice padded cell
- Caring for your pets
- Charities you would like to support
You might be wondering how does estate planning do everything in the list above? By putting together the following documents:
There are 2 “death” documents: a Last Will and Testament and a Revocable Living Trust. You choose one or the other.
A Last Will says who gets what when you die. It names someone to be in charge, called an executor, or in Arizona, a Personal Representative. Having a Last Will can mean having to do a probate.
A Revocable Living Trust says who gets what when you die. It names someone to be in charge, called a trustee. A Revocable Living Trust is a great way to:1) avoid probate; 2) protect young children and grandchildren; 3) protect assets for your special needs adult child; 4) handle assets in different states. Most of my clients choose to have a Revocable Living Trust.
If you do not have a Last Will and Testament or a Revocable Living Trust, then probate will most likely be needed when you pass away.
There are 3 “incapacity” documents: a Financial Durable General Power of Attorney, a Durable Health Care Power of Attorney and a Durable Mental Health Care Power of Attorney.
A Financial Durable General Power of Attorney says if you are incapacitated, someone you name will make money decisions for you. This person steps into your “money shoes” and can make all decisions with your assets that you could have made. There is one big difference. You can make irresponsible decisions with your finances, but the person you name to make decisions must make reasonably prudent decisions.
A Durable Health Care Power of Attorney says if you are incapacitated, someone you name will make health care decisions for you. This means all health care decisions, from consenting to a simple surgery to pulling the plug. Your Durable Health Care Power of Attorney has a very important job—to waive the HIPAA privacy laws that prevent access to your medical records so that your named person can make informed decisions for you.
A Durable Mental Health Care Power of Attorney says if you are a danger to yourself or to others, someone you name will lock you in that nice padded cell.
If you do not have these Powers of Attorney, then your loved ones will need to go to court and be appointed as conservator over your finances and guardian over your health and mental health. Both conservatorship and guardianship require annual reporting to a Judge.
There is 1 “pull the plug” document, called a Living Will. It says if you are in really, really bad shape, you want life support stopped. You want to be as pain free and comfortable as possible. You want to die with dignity.
If you don’t have this document, you may be kept alive on machines far longer than you ever would have wanted.
There are other documents included in estate planning, such as:
- Power of Attorney for your minor child if you will be out of town
- Cremation Authorization saying that you wish to be cremated
- Burial Authorization saying that you wish to be buried
- Information Organizer helping you to get all of your important information in one place: insurance, credit cards, user names, passwords, employment information, accounts, etc.
In the time it takes to drive to a Cardinals football game, park, watch the game, and hit traffic on the way home, you can have all of your estate planning documents done along with peace of mind. All you need to do is get in contact with me today.