What is Estate Planning and Why Use an Estate Planning Lawyer
Many people believe that estate planning is something that only "rich people" need in order to handle their valuable assets or something you can wait to do when you are older. This misconception is common, and the reality is that estate planning is a valuable tool for anyone to utilize. Having a proper estate plan will allow for your assets, however valuable they may be, to be dispersed according to your wishes.
Estate Planning Topics
Last Will and Testament: At the most simple level, an estate plan should contain an individual's will, also known as your Last Will & Testament. A will distributes an individual's tangible assets upon their death. One way of looking at it is if you were to take your home and shake it upside down, your will would be responsible for the disposition of those assets that fall to the ground, as well as your bank accounts. If one does not have a will, it is left to the state's intestacy laws to determine how that individuals assets should be distributed upon their death. Your will can spell out with specificity to whom you would like to bequeath certain assets in your estate, or how you would like your estate dispersed. For individuals with minor children (under the age of 18), a will is also the vehicle which will dictate your wishes related to guardianship of your children.
Durable Power of Attorney: Another key document that should be included in your estate plan is a durable power of attorney. This document will allow an agent of your choosing to act on your behalf related to any financial matters if you should be come incapacitated for any reason. For example, your selected agent would be able to make financial decisions related to your estate in order to continue to pay your bills and conduct other personal business on your behalf upon your incapacitation.
Living Will: A well-known document that is also important as part of your estate planning is a living will. This is the document that dictates your wishes related to "pulling the plug," so to speak. Your living will gives an agent of your choosing the power to make important healthcare decisions for you if you have a terminal condition. The document, however, first notes your wishes for your agent to carry out. The living will is a vital document, in that when you are admitted to a hospital, it is often one of the first things that you are asked whether you have, just in case things don't go as planned at the hospital.
Healthcare Power of Attorney: Related to this living will is a mental healthcare power of attorney that will also give your agent to authority to seek mental healthcare for you if you are unable to do so. This comes into play if it is believed by your agent that you no longer have the mental wherewithal to recognize your limitations. Without a mental healthcare power of attorney, such decisions would be left to the Court and your mental healthcare would be determined by the State.
Revocable Trust: Finally, there is a revocable trust. This is considered to be the cornerstone to any estate plan. A revocable trust will allow an individual's estate to avoid probate, the Court proceeding in which an individual's will is validated. The probate process is costly and lengthy, as well as public, which is why people often want to avoid probate to save their heirs time and money. Probate is triggered if your tangible assets are valued at approximately $75,000 and if the aggregate of your real property is valued at approximately $100,000. The probate process allows for creditors to come out of the woodwork to make a claim against your estate.
By placing your assets into the trust, or having the trust own these documents instead of you as an individual, the trust will be able to dictate your wishes as to how your estate should be distributed immediately upon your death without Court intervention. A trust can own property, and as the trustee of your own trust, you would have the same access to do whatever you would like with your property during your lifetime. The individual(s) that you name as successor trustee will then be granted that same access upon your death. Similar to your personal representative (or executor) under your will, your successor trustee will have specific instructions as to how your assets shall be dispersed.
Arizona Estate Planning Lawyers
Really, an estate plan is important to different people for different reasons, that is why it is important to work with an estate planning attorney that can recognize your objectives and apply knowledge of estate planning practices to efficiently accomplish your wishes. At Dana Law Group, we do just that. Call us NOW at 1-800-381-8132 for immediate estate planning assistance.