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Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way

A recent 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 the way we desire, and outline how we want to be cared for.


What Does Estate Planning Involve?

Estate planning ensures that a deceased person’s estate is properly allocated among loved ones. This provides tremendous peace of mind because it leaves nothing to chance. When someone dies with an estate plan, the estate plan becomes the governing documentation for the distribution of assets.


What do assets involve? 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 a parent or guardian passes away by appointing someone to raise them. Business owners regularly include a succession plan in their estate plans so they have control over what happens to their corporations when they are gone or unable to be at the helm.


Who Needs Estate Planning?

Everyone should consider estate planning sooner rather than later. Even young adults should speak with an estate planning attorney to talk about the future.

So, what’s the rush to create an estate plan, especially when you’re young? 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 while trying to sort out your estate in court. It is also vital to have an estate plan if you want to choose the guardians for your minor children.

What Happens If Someone Dies Without an Estate Plan?

People who do not have estate plans and die or become incapacitated may not have their last wishes fulfilled. For instance, your assets may not be appropriately divided among your family members or friends. Additionally, if you become injured and need 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 named assets in the trust 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. In fact, it sometimes mimics the general language of a trust. However, instead of a trustee, an executor or personal representative distributes assets according to the will. Typically, wills outline the guardianship of minors.
  • 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 for the principal. It is important to note that agents are not automatically given full power of attorney. For instance, one agent may be given financial power of attorney to deal with money issues. A different agent could 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 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. Sometimes, clients of estate planning attorneys will revisit their medical living wills to change the language based on new experiences.


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? 

Working with a compassionate, highly trained estate planning attorney can make a huge difference for anyone concerned about what will happen to their estate after they are gone. An estate planning attorney can offer personal attention and understanding. Consider the process as an opportunity to get a holistic view of not just today’s assets but what tomorrow may look like.

Finding the right fit in an estate planning attorney involves asking upfront questions, including what the process will look like and how fees are arranged. Because estate planning is such a personal issue, it should be handled with extreme care and individualization. Matching clients with attorneys is extremely important in all legal matters, but it is especially important when putting together a discrete 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 to be overturned. Often, language that seems straightforward is not so straightforward after all. 

Therefore, having all documents created by an estate planning attorney is a better solution than trying to take a DIY approach to estate planning.

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, executors, and even beneficiaries should not have to wonder where the estate plan is in the event of a person dying or becoming incapacitated.

Every person who has an estate plan should keep a secure copy of the documents in a fire-safe location such as a fireproof box at home or a bank deposit box. The attorney who helped create the estate planning documents will also keep a copy. In the digital era, it may also be smart to have a digitized version of the estate plan to pull up on any computer or device.

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! 

What kinds of Estate Planning documents do I put together?

Power of Attorney for Minors and Young Adults

Protect your children if you are out of town and once they become adults

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Cremation and Burial Authorization

Cremation or burial is ok for you

Read More

Durable Health Care Power of Attorney

Someone makes health care decisions for you

Read More

Durable Mental Health Care Power of Attorney

Someone locks you in that nice padded cell

Read More

Financial Durable General Power of Attorney

Someone handles your finances for you

Read More

Last Will and Testament

Who gets what, when you die

Read More

Medical Living Will

Says to pull the plug

Read More

Revocable Living Trust

Who gets what, when you die

Read More

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AVVO Accredited Estate Planning Lawyer
Better Business Bureau Accredited Estate Planning Lawyer

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