Why You Need An Estate Plan
If you have no estate plan, you will give the state of Arizona the right to decide what will happen to your assets and your family will probably need to retain a lawyer or lawyers to probate your estate. Your assets will be distributed to beneficiaries determined by judges, not by you. It also causes unnecessary delay in the distribution of your estate. The probate of your estate will be much more expensive than having your estate planning completed by a professional, and we can tell you ways to avoid probate altogether.
If you have minor children at the time of your death, the court will decide who will be their guardian, instead of you making that decision. The court will also decide who will manage the children’s social security benefits and their inheritance while they are minors and then will give them their entire inheritance when they turn 18 years old. This is usually unwise, as most young adults are often not capable of managing the assets you accumulated throughout your life.
Finally, if you were become incapacitated, it is possible that your family members would need to have the court appoint someone to act as your guardian, the person who makes decisions about your welfare, and also appoint a conservator to manage your money.
All of these scenarios can be avoided if you have a properly drawn estate plan.
What Is The Difference Between A Will And A Living Trust?
A will is usually sufficient for someone with assets totaling less than $50,000 and who has no minor children.
A living trust provides much better protection for assets, as trusts are much more difficult to contest. Living trusts also avoid probate, which allows immediate distribution of the assets to your heirs, as opposed to a probated estate, which often takes six to 12 months. A trust may help you avoid federal estate taxation, and can protect the inheritance from the beneficiaries’ creditors. A well-drafted living trust will also avoid the difficulties in having the court appoint a guardian and conservator, as well as the expense.
A trust gives you much more freedom as to how and when your beneficiaries receive the estate. You may make future distributions to your beneficiaries contingent on their age, education, and any number of other factors. You can distribute the estate over periods of years, provide funds for certain goals, and provide for a special needs person without interfering with their eligibility for State-funded programs. Living Trusts are easy to revise as your circumstances and family needs change.
If you have minor children, a trust will avoid the need for a guardian and conservator in the event of your death, and allow you to determine how the estate is to be managed for the children and by whom.
What Documents Constitute A Complete Estate Plan?
If you decide a will is sufficient for your needs, you should have:
- Your last will and testament
- A living will that makes provisions to avoid unnecessary health procedures and directs doctors as to what life-sustaining procedures you do and do not want
- A health care power of attorney that names a person or persons to make your medical decisions in the event you are incapacitated
- A general durable power of attorney or a special power of attorney which names a person that will manage your financial needs during your absence or incapacity
- A special power of attorney regarding minor children appointing a person or persons to care for your children
If you decide on a living trust, you will need:
- All of the items above, (except the special power of attorney regarding minor children)
- Your trust document
- A certification of trust
- A transfer of personal property to the trust
- A statement of assets
When Should I Revise My Estate Plan?
When major changes occur in your family circumstances, your estate plan should be reviewed by your family lawyer. Some of those changes might be:
- Birth or adoption of another child
- A beneficiary becomes incapacitated or has special needs
- Your disability or that of a spouse
- Death of a spouse or a beneficiary
- A successor trustee or personal representative is no longer able/willing to serve
- A change as to who you would choose to take care of your children
- Relocation to or from another state
- Purchase or sale of real estate
- Purchase or sale of business assets
- Significant increase in asset value
- Changes in federal or state laws
Why Elkins & Muir, PLLC?
Other non-lawyers draft estate plans, such as certified document preparers and insurance companies. Why have a real lawyer draft these documents for you? You’ve spent your life accumulating your estate. At ELKINS & MUIR, P.L.L.C we keep up with changes in the laws and the best ways to help you avoid probate and federal estate taxation.
Unlike the non-lawyers, we do it right the first time and carry insurance to guarantee that we do. Insurance companies draft trusts because they want to sell you their products. They don’t usually have an ongoing relationship with you and your family, nor do they have the continuing education requirements that lawyers have that keep us continually in the know. When you plan your estate with us, we are here to answer your questions, take care of your changing needs, and to help you and your family through difficult times. We have built our reputation on providing caring, compassionate services to our clients. A complete will package costs from $500 to $650. Trust packages vary, depending on the complexity, and start at $1500. Call us today at 520-219-4040 to start your estate planning.