What Is Estate Planning?

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by | Sep 21, 2023 | Probate Law

The key and central purpose of estate planning is control. The law gives you an opportunity to control who makes the decisions that affect you and your property as well as how your property is managed and distributed for as long as possible—but only if you take advantage of estate planning. If you want your preferences and desires to be respected and enforced when you are no longer able to make decisions or act, the most reliable way of achieving that outcome is to use/hire a licensed, experienced, estate planning attorney to provide advice and quality, comprehensive estate planning documents designed for you.

What Exactly is Estate Planning?

Estate Planning Attorney in AZ

Estate Planning involves thinking about, deciding upon, and creating legally valid documents that will provide for the management of your person and estate in the way you desire upon your incapacity and/or death. A complete estate plan includes legal documents such as Advanced Directives (Living Wills and Durable Health Care and Mental Health Care Powers of Attorney) that govern health care decision-making and Durable Powers of Attorney, Wills, and Trusts that govern management and distribution of property and assets.

Do I Own Enough Assets to Need or Benefit from Estate Planning?

An estate is simply everything that you own—so everyone has an estate! As such, estate planning is not only useful and available to millionaires, but to everyone. Unfortunately many people are unaware of the many benefits to themselves and their loved-ones that can come from estate planning both before and after death—benefits such as making the handling of decision-making issues and assets easier and less expensive, reducing both the risk and cost of disputes over personal care and assets, and, most importantly, providing peace of mind. Each of us has the choice to make choices and take action that will most likely secure the benefits of estate planning or to take less than adequate action which ultimately results in loss of control and unanticipated and unwanted outcomes.

Should I Use an Attorney to do Estate Planning?

Yes! Complex state laws govern who has control and decision-making authority over you, your body, and your assets when you become incapacitated (which can occur unexpectedly at any time) or die. Estate planning documents must contain language that not only complies with the law, but that is most likely to achieve your goals and desires. A licensed and experienced estate planning attorney will ensure that your estate plan is:

1) valid;

2) clearly and effectively expresses your intent and wishes;

3) contains current protective language;

4) places you in control of the decision-making process and asset management; and

5) minimizes the effort and cost of probate.

A quality estate planning attorney will seek to understand your concerns, priorities, assets, and wishes. After listening to you, such attorney will openly and honestly discuss with you various options, including the pros, cons, and the estimated current and future costs of each option.

Ideally, the estate planning attorney will provide you with a comprehensive solution that is customized to the types of assets you hold, your personal and family situation, and your specific needs and concerns.

The bottom line is that with a well-thought-out and executed estate plan, you can make life easier and less stressful for you and those you care for upon your incapacity and death.

What Happens Without Estate Planning?

What Happens Without Estate Planning?
If you fail to plan or your plan fails, the law of Arizona and most states provide a default plan, which is commonly known as “probate.” A probate judge, after determining who has legal priority to manage and distribute your assets, will appoint someone to act on your behalf to manage and finalize your financial affairs, including the distributing your assets. The court oversees the probate process until it is completed in compliance with the law. Court costs, attorney’s fees, and administrative expenses associated with probate reduce the assets available for distribution to your heirs, loved ones, friends, or charities.

Top Estate Planning FAQs

Here are some of the top questions our probate attorney’s hear regarding state planning in Arizona:

What is the difference between a will and a trust?

A will is a legal document that outlines how your property should be distributed after your death. A trust, on the other hand, allows you to place assets under the management of a trustee for the benefit of your chosen beneficiaries.

At what age should I start estate planning?

There’s no right or wrong age to start estate planning. However, it’s generally recommended to start once you have significant assets or dependents.

Can I change my estate plan once it’s set up?

Yes, estate plans can be updated or changed as your circumstances change over time. It’s recommended to review your estate plan every few years or after major life events.

What happens if I die without a will or estate plan?

If you die without a will or estate plan, your estate will be distributed according to state law in a process known as probate. This may not align with your wishes and can often be more time-consuming and costly.

Does having a will avoid probate?

While a will guides how your assets should be distributed, it does not avoid probate. Only assets placed in a trust or designated to go directly to a beneficiary can avoid probate.

What should I include in my estate plan?

An estate plan usually includes a will, a power of attorney, and possibly a trust. It may also include health care directives and guardianship designations for minor children.

How often should I update my estate plan?

It’s good practice to review your estate plan every 3-5 years. However, you should also update it after significant life events like marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, a major financial change, or the death of a named beneficiary or executor.

Legal Estate Planning Done Well: The Cornerstone of Peace and Legacy

Legal Estate Planning Done Well:

When implemented effectively, estate planning does more than just organize your assets and legal affairs. It can significantly enhance your overall well-being, fortify your relationships, and shape the legacy you leave behind.

Estate planning done well is a reflection of your care for your own future and the futures of those you love. It offers peace of mind, knowing that your affairs are in order and your loved ones are taken care of. It alleviates stress and uncertainty during challenging times, allowing you and your family to focus on what truly matters – each other.

Furthermore, estate planning strengthens relationships by clarifying your wishes, preventing potential disputes among your loved ones. It’s an act of love, demonstrating your forethought and consideration for their well-being.

Lastly, a well-crafted estate plan is a powerful tool for leaving a lasting legacy. Your decisions on asset distribution, philanthropic efforts, and personal messages can echo through generations, reflecting your values and the impact you made during your lifetime.

So, when we talk about ‘Legal Estate Planning Done Well,’ we’re talking about more than just legal documents. We’re talking about a profound commitment to your peace of mind, your relationships, and the enduring mark you leave on the world. Make it a priority today for a more secure and harmonious tomorrow.

Request a free consultation with our probate lawyers today.


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