Most people know that they should create a Last Will and Testament before they die. However, most people also delay in creating a Will because it something that can wait or they believe their estate is not yet large enough. This is a common misconception.
It is never too early to prepare for the future and to take what steps are available to you to make sure your wishes regarding the care of your children and the management and distribution of your assets are carried out after your death. One step you can take is preparing a Will.
To get started, contact Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC. We can meet with you one-on-one and help you to make a Will that meets your estate planning goals. We serve clients throughout the Greater area, including Scottsdale and Sun City. Call or reach us online today.
Why Do You Need a Will?
If you die without a valid will, your surviving family members, or “heirs,” will inherit your assets according to the Arizona laws of intestate succession. If you have no heirs within a specified degree of relation, your property will pass to the State of Arizona, or “escheat.” The default intestate succession plan, either among your family members or distributing your estate to the State of Arizona, may not match your wishes.
Additionally, the laws of the State of Arizona provide an order of priority for the selection of a Personal Representative, or Executor, of your Estate. The listed order of priority may not match your wishes regarding this important position and can lead to disagreements among family members as to who will be appointed.
Furthermore, without a valid will, a judge may not have evidence of what your wishes are when deciding who to appoint as guardian of your minor child. Although a judge will make a decision in the “best interest” of the child, this decision may not place your child with the person (or persons) you would have preferred.
Creating a Last Will and Testament is one way to resolve these issues. When properly prepared, a Will provides clear instructions on how you wish for your assets to be distributed after your death. It can also name a person or persons to care for your child (guardianship) and/or financial affairs (conservatorship).
However, if a Will is not properly drafted, or if it is deemed to be invalid under Arizona law, many of the same problems we outlined above could still arise. This is why it is important to work with an experienced estate planning lawyer who will pay close attention to every detail.
How Do You Make a Will?
Before you meet with a lawyer about your will, you should address the following issues:
- What are your assets? List all assets that you own and would like to distribute through a Will. For instance, your home and other real property that you own, a life insurance policy, IRA account or 401k account, bank accounts, investment accounts, car and other vehicles, jewelry, collectibles and other personal property items could all be on your list. It is important to note on the list if an asset has multiple owners (husband and wife, parent and child, etc.) or if you have already named a beneficiary for the asset.
- Who are your beneficiaries? List all family members and others to whom you want to bequeath property. The list could include your spouse, children, grandchildren, siblings, parents, friends or even a charity. The list should also include any family members that you may wish to limit or exclude distributions to because it may be important to include that information in a Will as well.
- How do you want your assets distributed? Do you want to leave specific property to specific individuals? Do you want to leave your property in equal shares to a list of beneficiaries? Do you want to do a combination of both? Should a beneficiary receive their entire inheritance at once, or should it be spread out over a period of time? Do you want to leave funds to a beneficiary for a particular purposes, like paying for college or buying their first house?
- Who should be your personal representative? Choose a family member, friend, professional, or financial institution whom you trust to manage and distribute your assets. This person or company would be named the Personal Representative, or Executor, of your estate.
- Who should look after your children? You should also think carefully about whom you would like to care for your children or manage their finances in the event that you die. Are there any particular instructions or wishes that you would like to be respected regarding your children’s upbringing (religious, educational, recreational, etc.)? Additionally, it is important to note if there is anyone you would not want to care for your children. A Will provides you with an opportunity to provide the information and wishes you think a judge may need in making a decision on what is in the best interest of your children.
Once you have determined these issues, a lawyer can help you to draft and execute a Will that is valid under the laws of the State of Arizona.
After you make your Will, you should plan to review it (and other estate plans) if any of the following events occur:
- You marry, divorce or separate
- You have a child by birth or adoption
- Your child turns age 18
- Your health or your spouse’s health declines, or your spouse dies
- The value of your assets changes dramatically
- Family events cause a significant change in relationships or attitudes toward one another
- Federal or state tax laws change in a way that might impact your estate plan
- You move to a different state
- You simply change your mind about your Will and/or your estate plan
- If it has been more than three (3) years since you last read your Will
How Can a Sun City Wills Attorney Help with Making Your Will?
A lawyer from our firm will take the time to learn your estate planning goals and work with you on creating a Will that meets your specific objectives and complies with Arizona law.
We can also explain and help you to pursue other estate planning options that may interest you. For instance, a Will is likely to go through the probate process. While the probate process is time consuming, it can be an informal process that does not involve Court hearings or judges.
If, however, you rather your estate did not go through the probate process, you may wish to explore options including a beneficiary deed to your home or a Trust.