Though the term "estate" tends to elicit images of sprawling countryside manors for some, a more accurate description is simply anything considered property. Virtually everyone owns an estate of some type, whether it be the epitome of grandeur or a modest checking account and the family mini-van. While every estate differs in size and nature, all individuals are equally vulnerable to unexpected accidents and illnesses.
Without the right measures in place, such misfortune could potentially leave your loved ones struggling physically and financially at a time when emotional stress has already reached its peak. Properly building and maintaining your assets throughout your lifetime is crucial, but creating a strategy to be implemented once your time on Earth has passed is no less important. With an estate planning lawyer in Mesa, you can ensure your family is taken care of regardless of what life (or death) may have in store.
A Long-Standing and Trusted Element
Wills are legal documents detailing a person's wishes after death. They are routinely used for nominating a trusted individual to administer the estate, specifying asset distribution and naming a preferred guardian of children under the age of 18 in the event of a parent's passing. Some also include desired funeral and burial arrangements in their wills, so loved ones left behind are free of this responsibility.
Wills are vital tools in providing for your family once you become unable to do so. They help guarantee that your wishes for yourself and for your family members are carried out according to your preferences and allow you a final say in who should be in charge of overseeing any physical and financial property. While they go a long way toward clearing up any confusion, they do create a few issues of their own.
The Inherent Problem with Wills
The use of a Will does not avoid involvement of the courts. In fact, courts oversee the administration of all estates to assure that your intent, as expressed in the Will, is followed. Bank accounts, real estate, vehicles and any other properties left to your family could be tied up in the probate process for months before being distributed to designated heirs. Family members could be forced to have a probate attorney in Arizona petition the court on their behalf for financial aid in order to make ends meet even though you may have allocated hundreds of thousands of dollars to them to help them avoid such hardships.
Taking Matters a Step Further
A trust allows you to go above and beyond the basic will and testament, further protecting your family's future. Some such instances include:
- Providing you with greater control over your assets when you are disabled or incapacitated.
- Ensuring that children from a prior marriage or relationship receive the portion of your property you want them to receive.
- Furnishing specified financial assets to be used for the needs of minor children, while protecting their inheritance from waste or mismanagement.
Allowing beneficiaries access to portions of their inheritances without those assets being vulnerable to creditors of the beneficiary.
These are only a few of the scenarios in which a trust could aid in protecting and maximizing any assets you plan to pass along to your family. Trusts may also help avoid the lengthy and costly probate process, greatly reducing the time beneficiaries must wait before gaining access to property or finances. Wills, likewise, have a long and sordid history of being contested, further drawing out the process. Trusts may eliminate the possibility of anyone being allowed to argue against your final wishes.
If Life Takes a Toll before Death becomes an Issue
You may have an entire array of provisions in place to ensure your family is well taken care of upon your demise, but what happens if you become incapacitated long before that time comes? Dementia, traumatic brain injuries, chronic depression, schizophrenia, and any number of other conditions have left countless people unable to manage their own assets. Your parents, spouse, adult children, or additional loved ones have the right to petition the court for control of your assets. However, obtaining a guardianship or conservatorship over an individual or their assets is an expensive and time consuming process. Before you are proved to be incapacitated, bank accounts and real property you hoped to leave behind could be drained, seized by creditors, or used by private fiduciaries.
Retaining the services of an experienced lawyer in Mesa to handle your estate planning efforts can help you name a specific person, or people, to manage your affairs should you be unable to do so. By taking care of this possibility ahead of time, your loved ones will be able to automatically assume those responsibilities in your behalf. Documents can also be created to designate a specific person capable of making health care decisions for you or to inform medical personnel of your wishes regarding resuscitation, life support, and other medical treatment.
Wills are effective tools in securing your family's future once you are no longer able to take care of them, but they are only one piece of the puzzle. An experienced Estate Planning Attorney in Arizona can help you take power over your estate away from the court system and place it in the hands of its rightful heirs. Additional provisions can take immediate effect should an illness or accident render you unable to make your own decisions regarding health care, financial matters, and other essential factors of life. Contact Gillespie, Shields, Durrant & Goldfarb for estate planning assistance in AZ.