ESTATE PLANNING ATTORNEY IN PHOENIX
Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way
A recent Caring.com study found that 60% of Americans don’t have an estate plan in place. This is amazing to me because I truly believe it is one of the best ways we can protect our families when we are no longer able to do so.
It lets us provide for our spouses, children, and grandchildren, and ensures that the assets we have spent a lifetime collecting go to the people we love. These documents can ensure we spend our final days peacefully.
What Does Estate Planning Involve?
Estate planning allows you to say how you will be taken care of if you are incapacitated. This provides tremendous peace of mind because it leaves nothing to chance and identifies who will get your assets when you pass away.
What is an asset? An asset could be anything from a residence or vehicle to a work-based retirement plan. In fact, many people are surprised to learn that they have far more assets than they assumed, such as retirement savings that they forgot about from past jobs. By speaking with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney in Phoenix, they can better understand exactly what their estate fully looks like.
An estate plan can also cover what happens to minors if parents pass away. Naming a guardian to raise children can avoid very painful battles later.
Who Needs Estate Planning?
Everyone should consider estate planning sooner rather than later. Even young adults should speak with an estate planning attorney. Once someone reaches the age of 18, no one has the legal authority to make medical or financial decisions for them if they are incapacitated. That's right, not even your parents.
As we all know, life is very unpredictable. Often, young and seemingly healthy people pass away without an estate plan which can create a very complicated situation for the loved ones they leave behind.
It is crucial for individuals and couples who own property, have young children, or own businesses to have an estate plan in place. Dying without an estate plan in place, such as a will or power of attorney, can leave your loved ones stuck in an expensive and grueling process trying to sort out your estate and follow pre-determined rules on who gets what.
What Happens If Someone Does Not Have an Estate Plan?
People who do not have estate plans and die or become incapacitated may not have their wishes fulfilled. For instance, assets may not be appropriately divided among family members or friends. Additionally, if you someone is injured and needs to be placed on life support, your loved ones may not know what your last wishes are in terms of medical care.
Essentially, estate plans are as much for the people who outlive the person creating the plan as they are for the creator. They should be considered living documents, and estate planners will often recommend that you frequently update your documents. Life can change rapidly and with it, your estate plan.
Arizona Law Specific to Trust and Estate Planning
As in most states, Arizona law does not set out to specify who receives a deceased individual’s assets as long as estate planning documents are in place. However, if someone dies without an estate plan that includes documentation such as a will or trust, a government-run probate court will use its best judgment to distribute assets. This can lead to incredible stress among people who believe they should be beneficiaries of an estate, especially if they are not family members and may not be considered beneficiaries by a state court.
It is easy to see how having an estate plan already laid out can avoid significant complications, not to mention the misallocation of assets to people the deceased might not want to receive any assets. For example, not every parent wants to divide assets equally among their children for a variety of reasons. Yet if the parent dies without an estate plan, the estate may be given in equal amounts to each of the children. Any families who want to make sure that specific beneficiaries get less than a state court might give them should seek out advice from an estate planning attorney in Arizona.
Estate Planning Documents
Meeting with an estate planning attorney involves talking about the different types of estate planning documents and which are right for you. Some of the most common types of estate planning documents are listed below.
- Revocable Living Trust: A revocable living trust explains how to allocate your assets after you die. This trust can be set up to provide for children’s needs and educational expenses. Plus, all assets naming a trust as a beneficiary or naming a trust as an owner, avoid probate. A trustee is named in the revocable living trust. This person will handle the identification, collection, and distribution of any assets. The trustee will then distribute appropriate assets to all beneficiaries as outlined in the trust document. Many clients alter their revocable living trust documents throughout their lifetime, adding and removing beneficiaries as needed.
- Wills: Most people are familiar with the concept of a last will. An executor or personal representative distributes assets according to the will. Typically, wills outline the guardianship of minors. I find that a vast majority of my clients choose a trust over a will.
- Power of Attorney: When someone can no longer take care of themselves, they rely on others to make choices based on their wishes. A power of attorney names the person or persons who are considered agents (ie the decision makers). you can name one agent in a financial power of attorney to deal with money issues. A different agent can be given authority to make medical decisions through a health care power of attorney document. A mental health care power of attorney agent would handle concerns surrounding inpatient psychiatric treatment.
- Medical Living Will: If the time comes to take a person off of life support or withhold lifesaving measures, a medical living will outlines exactly what the incapacitated person wishes.
Without estate planning documents in place, your loved ones will be forced to rely on the court to make end-of-life, financial, and medical decisions. Not only is that stressful for everyone involved, but it can lead to choices that do not reflect the desires of the incapacitated or deceased person.
Why Hire an Estate Planning Attorney?
Hiring an estate planning attorney who can explain everything in plain English, not legalese, is very important. A complicated family situation translated into simple wording means your wishes will be followed and ideally, family battles will be avoided.
There is no better compliment I can get than when my clients tell me that the process was much easier than they anticipated. My years of experience go a long way to removing much of the intimidation and fear surrounding doing an estate plan.
Can a Person Create an Estate Plan Without an Attorney’s Assistance?
It is possible to complete legal documents in Arizona without the assistance of an estate planning attorney. Still, the process can be quite daunting, particularly for people who have no legal training. Making simple errors could cause a will or trust to be overturned. Often, language that seems straightforward is not so straightforward after all.
You can save your family thousands of dollars in legal fees spent trying to interpret your DIY documents by spending a fraction of that cost getting them done by an attorney.
Where Does the Final Estate Plan Live?
This is an important question because it brings up the need for your estate plan to be readily available. Named trustees and decision makers named in Powers of Attorney should not have to wonder where the estate plan is in the event of a person dying or becoming incapacitated.
I recommend that my clients keep the hard copy originals in a fire-proof safe. I provide my clients with digital copies as well. All named trustees, executors and Power of Attorney decision makers, should have a copy of all of the documents.
Trusted Estate Planning Services in Phoenix
The estate planning process can be like a puzzle, and every individual’s puzzle is a little different. In fact, estate plans are quite unique. Once all of the pieces of an estate plan “puzzle” fit together, everyone can relax and enjoy life knowing that end-of-life decisions have been decided.
If you are interested in learning more about estate planning, contact attorney Susan Sandys at her law office at (602) 996-4076 to arrange an initial consultation. Susan Sandys focuses her Phoenix, Arizona practice on taking a customized approach to estate planning, making sure that as many topics as possible are covered with clients before solidifying a comprehensive estate plan. Schedule a consultation today!