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Protect Your Family’s Future

Protect Your Family's Future By Choosing An Experienced Estate Planning Attorney In Arizona

In the U.S., approximately 55% of all adults do not have a will or an estate plan. When people do decide that it's time to make a will, they are generally older, over 60. The primary reason for this, according to researchers, is confusion. People are unfamiliar with the process or believe that estate planning is only for the wealthy. Young parents, who have not accumulated many assets, do not realize that by not planning for death, they are placing the future of their greatest treasure, their children, in jeopardy.

Life is unpredictable. Estate planning is a gift of care and forethought for loved ones, providing some certainty in an uncertain world. It's very satisfying to protect those who are loved the most.

When a loved one passes, families have a lot to deal with. How easy or difficult the task of administration is to those who survive depends, in part, on whether or not any plans for the estate have been created ahead of time. The legal requirements, expenses, complexity and duration vary greatly, depending on which of the following is applicable.

  • No will can leave the family at the mercy of the laws and the court.
  • A signed will defines your basic wishes, but still requires court supervised administration.
  • A more extensive plan that includes the use of a Trust typically benefits the heirs the most, with a minimum of hassle, time, and expense.

What is an Estate?

An estate is simply everything that an individual owns. An estate could include the home, vehicles, stocks and bonds, other investments, life insurance and a bank account. Whether large or small, everyone will leave an estate when they pass.

What is Probate?

Probate refers to the process used by the court to conclude a person’s legal and financial matters after his or her death, including the gathering of assets, payment of creditors, and transfer of remaining assets to beneficiaries or heirs.  When a person has a will, the terms of the Will determine who administers the estate and how assets are divided and distributed. The probate court will determine whether or not the will is valid. With or without a will, the estate will go through probate and become a matter of public record.

Probate can be a complex, lengthy, and expensive process. It might conclude in six months or continue for two years or longer and your estate can be subject to all associated legal fees and costs.

What Happens When There is No Will?

When someone passes without a will, their estate is handled according to the intestate laws of the state. The court will appoint an administrator manage, protect, and distribute your assets according to how the state believes your assets should be divided and distributed.  Also, if both parents were killed in a car accident, for example, the court would decide who would be appointed as the children's guardian. Even if parents do not own significant assets, they should decide in advance and put in writing who they would want to care for their children.

Before deciding that there's no reason to prepare a Will or make plans for the estate, ask an attorney about inheritance laws. Most people prefer to make their own decisions as to what would be best for their family and not leave it up to the legal system. If who inherits is important to you, talk to an experienced probate lawyer in Mesa.

A Will Benefits Those Left Behind

Preparing a will is much better than doing nothing at all, but there will still be considerable expenses and delays caused by the probate process. Any property owned in other states would have to go through probate in those locations, increasing the expense and delay. When a will is probated, it becomes a public document. Most people prefer to keep their private matters confidential.

Reasons to have a will include:

  • Naming a guardian for minor children;
  • Stating who will inherit what assets;
  • Reducing the expenses associated with probate and speeding up the process;
  • Naming the person who will handle the estate.

Avoiding Probate

One of the questions people ask a probate attorney in Arizona is how to avoid probate. One of the kindest things that someone can do for those left behind is to eliminate as much of the probate hassle and expense as possible.

There are many legal strategies for avoiding probate that an estate planning lawyer in Mesa might recommend.

  • Designate beneficiaries for valuable assets.
  • Create and use a living trust.
  • Joint ownership of property with the "right of survivorship.”
  • Have bank accounts designated as transfer-on-death.

Estate Planning Provides the Most Protection

Estate planning is unique for each individual and designed to permit the rapid, private and inexpensive transfer of assets while avoiding probate. It can be very comprehensive, including matters that would not be addressed by a will. After deciding to protect the future of loved ones, get advice and assistance from an experienced Estate Planning Attorney in Arizona.

Some matters to consider include:

  • Assets, including pets;
  • Providing for the care of children, including those with special needs;
  • Preventing money from passing directly to children who would not spend it as intended (buying a sports car instead of going to college);
  • Planning for physical or mental incapacity;
  • Avoiding probate;
  • Decisions regarding a business;
  • Life and disability insurance;
  • Burial and funeral preferences.

Revocable Living Trusts

Revocable living trusts are an excellent tool for controlling the management of assets and avoiding probate. The trust continues after death and can prevent beneficiaries from inheriting substantial sums until after they reach an appropriate age of maturity as specified in the trust document.. Children with special needs can also be provided for in such a way that their inheritance does not disqualify them from receiving government health and disability benefits.  A revocable living trust can be changed or canceled if desired.

The attorneys at the law firm of Gillespie, Shields, Durrant & Goldfarb are focused on probate law and estate planning for those in the Mesa area. For estate planning assistance in AZ, contact the firm for an initial consultation.