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What is Involved in Estate Planning?

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Do You Have an Estate Plan in Place?

If you own a business in Arizona, if you have a family, or if you have significant properties and assets, you should already have an estate plan in place. If you don’t, it’s time to begin the estate planning process with the advice and guidance of an Arizona estate planning attorney.

Estate planning is more than simply preparing a last will and testament, and it’s not solely for the rich, the famous, or the elderly. Moreover, it is never too early to begin the estate planning process, because no one can know what tomorrow may bring.

Estate planning is making informed choices to ensure that your wishes are honored and your instructions are followed – precisely and faithfully – when the time comes. A good estate plan protects your assets and provides financial security to your loved ones for many years to come.

Where Do You Begin?

The first step in the estate planning process is contacting an Arizona estate planning lawyer and scheduling your initial estate planning consultation. Your first consultation is provided without cost or obligation.

You’ll discuss your estate planning goals. Your attorney will review your personal and financial circumstances, explain your estate planning options, and recommend an estate plan that meets your goals – a plan that’s right for you and your loved ones.

Laws that affect estate plans change over time, and so do the circumstances of your life, so your estate plan should be reviewed, and if necessary revised, on a regular basis or whenever there’s an important change in your life such as a marriage, a new child, a divorce, or a relocation.

When Should You Consult an Estate Planning Lawyer?

Proper estate planning should not be done in haste, but it needs to begin now. Too many people wait until they must make quick estate planning choices, and the results are sometimes catastrophic.

Plan your estate now, while there’s no question that you are making your choices with a sound mind. If you should become incapacitated or terminally ill, there’s more of a chance that a dispute will break out among your beneficiaries and loved ones.

Estate planning lawyers routinely deal with the disputes and problems that arise regarding estates, so your lawyer will offer you valuable advice and insights that you may not otherwise consider. Your attorney is familiar with estate planning alternatives you may not be aware of.

What Should Your Estate Plan Include?

The details of your estate plan will be unique, but most estate plans in Arizona should include:

  1.  a last will and testament and/or a revocable or irrevocable trust
  2.  a health care power of attorney and a durable power of attorney for your financial affairs
  3.  beneficiary designations, and if you have a minor child, a guardianship designation
  4.  a letter of intent

A trust or a will is the key document in most estate plans. Every adult in Arizona needs to have a will. Your will ensures that your instructions for dividing and distributing your properties and assets will be followed and that your wishes will be honored.

A trust lets your beneficiaries avoid the costly and time-consuming probate process when they inherit your properties and assets. A trust or a will must be written carefully to meet your goals, so you must have an Arizona estate planning lawyer prepare your trust or will on your behalf.

After a review of your properties, assets, and liabilities, your lawyer will prepare a last will and testament and/or an irrevocable or revocable trust – whatever best meets your needs – and your lawyer will also ensure that your trust or will is in compliance with Arizona law.

What is a Power of Attorney?

Anyone could be suddenly and unexpectedly incapacitated or disabled, so every adult in Arizona should prepare a durable power of attorney for their financial affairs.

A durable power of attorney gives someone you name as your agent the legal authority to act on your behalf when you can’t. Your durable power of attorney lets that agent make legal and financial decisions and conduct real estate transactions on your behalf.

Without your durable power of attorney, a court could decide what happens to your assets, and the court may not make the decisions you would make. Without a durable power of attorney, it’s conceivable that members of your family may not be able to pay your bills or cash your checks.

A health care power of attorney gives the person you name (most people name their spouse or another relative) the legal authority to make medical decisions for you if you’re incapacitated. The document addresses questions and concerns about end-of-life medical care and treatment.

About Your Beneficiary and Guardianship Designations

Brokerage and bank accounts and life insurance policies transfer directly to your designated beneficiaries after your death – whether or not you have prepared a will. If you don’t designate beneficiaries, a court could decide what happens to your accounts and your life insurance policy.

If you’re the parent of a minor child, the importance of naming a guardian cannot be emphasized too strongly. A guardian should be financially responsible, stable, and willing to take the responsibility. If you do not designate a guardian, the court could decide who raises your child.

Why Should You Include a Letter of Intent?

A letter of intent for your trust’s trustee, your will’s executor, or a specific beneficiary explains what that person should do after your death or if you are incapacitated. The letter may indicate how to handle specific assets and provide instructions for your funeral arrangements.

Letters of intent are not enforceable legal documents, but if a dispute emerges regarding your estate, a letter of intent may be used by a probate judge to learn your intentions. If your will is invalidated, your letter of intent can indicate how your estate should be divided and transferred.

Meet the Estate Planning Team at Turner Law Firm

At Turner Law Firm, a practiced Arizona estate planning attorney will help you to put in place an estate plan that will shield your assets, provide financial security for your family, and clearly express your wishes and directions.

If you have already prepared your estate plan, the team at Turner Law Firm can ensure that your plan is up-to-date, continues to meet your needs, and complies with Arizona law. We serve and advise clients in Pinal County, Maricopa County, and throughout the State of Arizona.

There is no cost or obligation for your first estate planning consultation with Turner Law Firm. To learn more, or to begin the process of planning your estate, schedule your first meeting with an estate planning lawyer – promptly – by calling Turner Law Firm at 480-618-1221.

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