The best strategy for avoiding or minimizing the time spent in probate court is to work with a talented attorney to create and implement a comprehensive estate plan. For most people, an estate plan will comprise much more than a Last Will & Testament, although this is often a fundamental component. A comprehensive estate plan consists of documents designed not only to manage and distribute your estate upon your death but also to allow you control over managing your assets and paying your bills should you become incapacitated. A quality plan should also include documents that allow you to appoint trusted individuals to make health care, mental health care, and end-of-life decisions if you are ever unable to make such decisions because of incapacity.
By establishing trusts, powers of attorney, and other tools, individuals can take action that will make it more probable that their wishes will be honored, with the added bonus of avoiding the hassles and expense of dealing with a probate court.
At Gillespie, Shields & Taylor, we produce comprehensive and flexible estate plan packages that meet the needs of individuals with modest estates (assets less than $1.5 million), which is the most common estate size.
Some of the tools and strategies we use for building a customized estate plan include:
Last Will & Testament
While your estate may benefit from the use of a trust and other estate planning documents, regardless of its size, a Last Will & Testament is the minimum advisable estate planning document you should acquire and is the foundation of any estate plan. This important document gives you an opportunity to name a personal representative (known as an executor in some states) and beneficiaries. While the rules for Wills vary somewhat from state to state, Arizona law recognizes estate planning documents, such as Wills, if they are valid in the state where they were signed. If you have experienced changes in your family or assets since you created or last updated your Will, it may be time to make some changes to your document or create a new one. Also, if you have moved to Arizona from another state, it is a good idea to have your estate planning documents reviewed and/or updated by a qualified and experienced Arizona estate planning attorney – especially if you plan on living in Arizona for an extended period or until the end of your life.
An attorney from Gillespie, Shields & Taylor can help ensure Wills are written clearly, signed, and filed in accordance with all Arizona laws so that last wishes are legally binding when the time comes.
Trust Creation & Administration
Trusts are an important tool in many estate plans, and Gillespie, Shields & Taylor can design and implement a trust that will meet your estate goals. Trusts are instruments that allow you to possess an extremely high level of control with the prospect of avoiding probate with its costs, inefficiencies, and lack of privacy.
When you create a trust, you become Trustor, Trustee, and Beneficiary. Upon funding (re-titling of assets) from your own name to the trust, you lose ownership of the assets; however, you retain control over management of the assets as Trustee, control over the terms of the trust as Trustor, and the right to use the assets as Beneficiary. The trust is designed to fit the specific needs of you and your family. You file the same income tax return using your social security number throughout the remainder of your life and can change anything in your trust whenever you wish. If and when you become disabled or incapacitated and can no longer manage your trust, the individual you have appointed to take charge can step in and take care of your assets without involving a court.
When you die, the individual you have appointed can step in and administer your Trust without court involvement. Revocable trusts are effective and efficient, even if they generally cost more to establish than a Will. Creating a Trust means you’ll pay more upfront but pay less in estate administration costs over your lifetime and after death. One of the best benefits of a revocable trust is that you can change the rules of the Trust whenever you wish and have full control over your assets.
Powers of Attorney and Medical Directives
During the estate planning process, many individuals take the opportunity to make important decisions in advance of becoming disabled or incapacitated. A power of attorney is a legal document that allows you, the Principal, to appoint an Agent to act on your behalf in financial and property matters. Powers of attorney can grant broad general powers and authority or can be limited to very specific powers. Also, a power of attorney can be effective for a specific period, until a certain task is completed, and can be effective only when you have capacity.
In estate planning, we usually use Durable Powers of Attorney, which can be made effective immediately upon signing or upon your incapacity and are designed to work even if you become incapacitated. Durable powers of attorney only work while a person is living, with a few exceptions reserved for making decisions regarding a person’s bodily remains after death.
Medical Directives include documents such as Durable Health Care Powers of Attorney, Durable Mental Health Care Powers of Attorney, and Living Wills.
- Durable Health Care Powers of Attorney and Durable Mental Health Care Powers of Attorney allow you to choose a trusted individual or individuals to make health care decisions for you if you are ever unable to make such decisions. With these powers of attorney, you can also express your healthcare preferences so that they are known and honored if you are unable to speak or communicate. If you do not have these types of documents, healthcare professionals will determine who makes decisions regarding your health and care, including what physicians you see, what operations and procedures you have, what medications you take, etc.
- Living Wills are end-of-life documents used by the person you appoint as your Agent in your health care powers of attorney to make decisions whether to “pull the plug” or keep you alive if you are ever in an irreversible coma, persistent vegetative state, or have severe brain trauma and the doctors do not believe you will recover. It also allows you to choose whether you want to be fed and hydrated artificially through food pumps or IV to prolong your life.
At Gillespie, Shields & Taylor, we only create powers of attorney as part of a comprehensive estate plan package.
Estate planning advice and services from Gillespie, Shields & Taylor can empower you to make challenging decisions about your future so that you can rest easier knowing your assets and your family are protected upon your disability and after your death. We carefully craft customized estate plans tailored to our clients’ unique needs and Arizona law. This process offers you maximum control over healthcare decisions and financial matters, as well as an expedited probate process for your heirs and loved ones.
For those who prefer a simpler estate planning process, we also offer Do-It-Yourself (DIY) forms for maximum convenience.
Gillespie, Shields & Taylor: Your Steadfast Advocates in AZ Probate Court
Probate law doesn’t need to be a confusing and stressful ordeal. With Gillespie, Shields & Taylor on your side, you can focus on living your life while we take care of the tedious legal details and keep your probate case on track for a positive outcome. Even if complexities like trust litigation or disputes among heirs should arise, we stand ready to offer powerful, effective legal solutions designed to meet your needs. Contact our offices today for a no-pressure consultation.
Your Probate Law Team
At Gillespie, Shields & Taylor we have over 27 years of experience in Trust and Probate Administration Law. Probate and Trust Administration can be a complicated process which involves many different legal strategies. Probate litigation can be even more disconcerting, especially if family animosity is involved. We effectively represent you and strive to keep stress between family members to a minimum. We will carefully guide you through all the legal requirements to help resolve all the legal issues.
Wayne H. Taylor
Wayne is a personable, experienced, down-to-earth attorney, who listens carefully to his clients’ needs and works tirelessly with them towards the achievement of their reasonable legal goals. As he sees it, Wayne’s duty as an attorney is to use his legal knowledge to make life a little fairer for his clients.
“Mr. Taylor’s compassionate and experienced approach to estate and trust administration was a blessing during a challenging time. He helped us achieve excellent results. If you’re looking for a great attorney – look no further.”
“Awesome! Everyone we met at the office was friendly and helpful. Our lawyer was patient, knowledgeable and spoke clearly where you actually understood the law! Highly recommend Wayne Taylor.”
“We needed a probate/trust litigation lawyer who could handle our complicated case. We found Wayne Taylor, thank goodness! His dedication to our case was clear from day one. Thanks to his efforts, our dispute was resolved quickly and without a lot of stress.”
“I found Wayne Taylor to be a highly zealous and dedicated lawyer in my trust litigation case. His hard work and experience yielded great results. I am extremely satisfied. Thanks Wayne.”
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