When someone dies, the need arises to resolve their final affairs. Most of the time, Arizona law allows people to complete this process in a fairly expeditious manner. However, with larger estates and estates with certain types of assets, a court proceeding may be necessary. This process is commonly known as probate.

    People often worry about having to open an estate, and they take measures to avoid probate. However, with help from an experienced lawyer, administering a probate estate does not have to be that complicated. At Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC, we can help you to navigate the probate court process and handle your loved one’s final affairs in a timely fashion. To learn more, contact us today and schedule a consultation with one of our probate lawyers through our Surprise office.

    What Is Probate and When Is it Required in Arizona?

    In Arizona, an estate can be resolved in one of three ways:

    • Small Estates (Informal Probate)
      The small estates process does not require probate court supervision. Instead, it can be handled through the use of affidavits and other paperwork. A close relative usually completes forms necessary to wrap-up the final affairs. However, only certain surviving family members can use an informal probate process. They include:

      • Spouse
      • Adult children
      • Parents
      • Siblings or half-siblings
      • Other heirs in the line of succession.

    Additionally, a person nominated as personal representative in the person’s will can use the small estates process, or a creditor (once 45 days have passed since the death). To take advantage of the small estates process, all claims must be paid, federal tax filings must be complete, and any real estate must be worth less than $100,000.

    • Regular Estates (Formal Probate)
      The traditional formal probate process is necessary when more than $75,000 in assets or other reasons for using the court exist, including disputes, lawsuits, contested claims, creditor disputes or a will contest, etc.). This just means you must file official court documents and provide proper notices to all involved parties.
    • Regular Estates (Supervised)
      If there are disputes or fights over assets, a proceeding may become supervised. This means the probate courts will require regular reports and accounting of all the debts and assets. This is designed to keep transparency and avoid any concealed assets.

    Senior couple fighting on retirement issues.Senior couple fighting on retirement issues.

    Despite common misconceptions, most of the assets that people have are actually not even subject to probate. Many assets do not pass through a probate estate. For instance, most pensions, retirement accounts and life insurance policies will have a beneficiary designation. If so, the money passes directly to those individuals without being considered a probate asset. The same goes for real estate and bank accounts that have a surviving joint tenant. Likewise, trust assets typically are not a part of probate. So, a probate estate acts as a catch-all to collect all remaining assets of one’s estate.

    Having a will generally does not determine whether you require a probate estate to be opened. It merely states the deceased person’s wishes and often makes the proceeding much smoother and more cost-effective by avoiding things like bond requirements.

    How Does the Probate Process Work in Arizona?

    Anyone dealing with the loss of a loved one should not have to deal with the many complex legal issues surrounding wills and estates under Arizona law without the help of a legal professional, especially if a case must go through the formal probate process. Here is how the process works:

    • Filing a petition to appoint a representative – The first step is for a party who is entitled to act as representative to petition the court for the job. If there is a will, this individual will be listed. If not, Arizona probate law determine who is entitled to act as the representative.
    • Notice – All surviving relatives must be provided with due process and proper notice. They must either consent to the representative’s appointment or dispute it.
    • Admission of a will – If there is no will, then Arizona’s intestate succession law will dictate who receives what share of the estate. If a will exists, all beneficiaries who are named in the will must be given time to contest the will if they wish to do so.
    • Administration – If there are no disputes over the will, the representative will have the responsibility of paying creditors, resolving any claims against the estate, filing a final tax return for the decedent and collecting any potential assets such as real estate, business interests, bank accounts and retirement accounts.
    • Closing the estate – Once all claims are paid, and all heirs and other parties involved have received their distributions from the estate, a judge will review the file and close the estate.

    What Is the Best Way to Resolve a Probate Dispute?

    Couple arguing over real estate matters.Couple arguing over real estate matters.

    If you are currently concerned because there is a dispute about the closing of an estate, you should get help from an estate litigation attorney in Surprise as early as possible. You should not distribute funds or attempt to use estate funds for any purposes until you have spoken with a probate attorney first.

    The best way to resolve a dispute will be through carefully handled negotiations. Often, our skilled attorneys at Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC can diffuse differences and help people to reach common ground. However, we will be prepared to protect your rights and interests in court if necessary.

    Our Surprise Probate Attorneys Are Ready to Help You

    If you are experiencing any issues with the resolution of your deceased loved one’s final affairs, our skilled Surprise probate law firm can assist you. We can help restore order to what can often be a complex and confusing process. We focus on the needs of our clients. We also cut through the legal jargon and help our clients to understand the issues involved in the process.

    To learn more, contact us and schedule a consultation through our Surprise office. We will thoroughly explain your options and help you to understand what to expect during the informal, formal or supervised probate process.

    Family Lawyer In Surprise, AZ

    At Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC, we provide a wide array of legal services to clients in Surprise and surrounding Arizona communities, including assistance with Arizona family law and other domestic legal matters. We know how sensitive divorce, support and custody issues can be for our clients. We pay close attention to their needs and focus our skills and resources on meeting their specific objectives.

    Separation of pawn wooden figure with gavel on wooden table In courtroom.Separation of pawn wooden figure with gavel on wooden table In courtroom.Whether you need legal assistance with a divorce, spousal support, child custody, child support or other family law case, contact us today. We can provide a confidential consultation. We will take the time to understand your family legal issues and discuss the ways we can help you to find solutions to those issues.

    Family Law Cases We Handle in Surprise, AZ

    The family law attorneys of Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC provide legal guidance and representation to clients in Surprise and surrounding areas in many different types of family law cases, including those which involve:

    • Divorce
      Divorces can be simple and straightforward if both spouses agree upon the details, and no major disputes arise over matters such as children or property. However, divorces can also be complex when large assets are involved or where hostility exists between the parties. Our divorce lawyers can help to make the process move forward as smoothly as possible.
    • Child Custody
      Divorcing parents often are at odds with each other about which parent should make decisions about their child’s welfare or where the child should live. A lawyer from our firm can help you to protect your rights as a parent and pursue an outcome that will serve your child’s best interests.
    • Child Support
      In almost all child custody cases, there will be a legal issue concerning who is responsible for paying for the needs of the child. Parents typically share this responsibility but not always equally. Arizona law has a system for calculating whether one parent should pay child support to the other one. Our law firm can guide you through this process.
    • Property Division
      Family law attorney discussing property division.Family law attorney discussing property division.In a divorce, the community property that you hold with your spouse is divided equitably (though certain factors may impact the final outcome). An attorney from Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC, can help you to understand what is and what is not “up for grabs” as far as property during your divorce. We can help you to reach an agreement with your spouse about division of your property or present your case in court, if necessary.
    • Spousal Support
      One of the most contentious elements of many divorces is whether one person should be required to pay the other person ongoing financial support to help them sustain their lifestyle. Our law firm will protect your rights whether you are seeking or challenging a spousal support award.
    • Adoption
      Adoption is a process through which a non-parent can obtain all of the legal rights and responsibilities of being a parent to a child. However, the adoption process in Arizona can be a complicated one. We can help you to get through the many technical aspects of your adoption.
    • Prenuptial Agreements and Postnuptial Agreements
      Before or after getting married, people can decide to enter into contractual arrangements to protect their rights if a divorce occurs. These prenuptial agreements and postnuptial agreements serve many useful purposes. For older couples and those who have children by prior marriages, they can provide a great degree of protection. We can help you and your partner to determine what will work best for your future.
    • Domestic Violence Protective Orders
      In violent or abusive relationships, it may be necessary to obtain a protective order. This is a court order that restricts the abuser’s rights and ability to remain in the home or to continue the threatening behavior. We can help you to seek or challenge a protective order or explore other options for your domestic violence problem.

    hat Are the Benefits of Hiring a Family Lawyer In Surprise, AZ?

    Family law involves a series of difficult decisions. You and another person may be fighting over something very emotional and painful. Whether it is how much time you will be able to spend with your child or how much of your money you will have to give another person, these issues can be difficult to resolve.

    At Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC, we know how challenging these issues can be for most people. We strive to provide compassionate and professional legal guidance and representation through our clients’ most difficult times. We can assist you by:

    • Listening to you and assessing your situation – Whether you are planning to dissolve your marriage, seek custody of your child or request support from a spouse or other parent, our attorneys can use our knowledge and experience to provide a frank assessment of your situation and develop a sound strategy for achieving your goals.
    • Protecting your rights and interests – Some family law issues such as those dealing with financial support, division of property and custody of children cannot be solved without an attorney’s guidance and representation. No matter what issues your case involves, we will work hard to protect your rights and interests at every stage in your case.
    • Couple signing rental contract.Couple signing rental contract.Handling all necessary paperwork – Whether you are seeking to get a divorce, file for custody of your child or modify a child support order, your case will involve paperwork that must be timely and properly filed. We can handle all of those technical aspects of your family law case for you, from start to finish.
    • Using alternative dispute resolution – Litigating a divorce or other Arizona family law matters in court can be stressful, expensive and time-consuming. Our attorneys can help you to seek solutions to your family law issues through mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution.
    • Advocating for you in court – If going to court to resolve your family law issues is necessary, our experienced family law attorneys will be prepared to aggressively advocate for you.

    Our Surprise, AZ Family Law Firm Is Ready to Serve You

    If you need legal assistance with your divorce or other family law issues, the attorneys of Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC will provide the highly personalized and professional representation that you deserve. To discuss your case, contact us today and arrange for a confidential consultation through our conveniently located Surprise office.

    Surprise Child Custody Lawyers

    When kids are involved in a divorce, nothing is simple. Your first step to understanding your rights and getting helpful answers to your tough questions is to speak with an experienced and compassionate Surprise, AZ child custody lawyer at Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC.

    Girl holding her teddy bear while her parents are arguing at the background.Girl holding her teddy bear while her parents are arguing at the background.We know how hard it can be to fight for your rights as a parent. We will help you to seek a child custody arrangement that is best for your child and your family. We have many years of experience with helping parents going through a divorce in Surprise and throughout surrounding communities.

    So, what can a family law firm do for you? To find out, contact us today and discuss your case in a confidential consultation.

    Types of Child Custody in Surprise, AZ.

    Arizona no longer uses the terms “custody” and “visitation.” Instead, the terms are “legal decision-making” and “parenting time.” As you work to resolve your “custody” dispute with the other parent, you should understand what those terms mean.

    Legal Decision-Making

    This term refers to which parent has the authority to make major decisions about the child’s life such as those decisions dealing with the child’s school, health care and religious upbringing. Under Arizona family law, parents can have joint legal decision-making authority. In other words, they share the authority to make those major decisions about a child’s life, or maybe one parent makes decisions in certain areas such as where the child goes to school, while the other parent makes decisions in other areas such where the child goes to church. In some cases, a parent may receive sole legal decision-making authority.

    Parenting Time

    Parenting time refers, plainly enough, to the amount of time that a parent enjoys with the child. It can range from a few hours to several days with the child. Today, most divorced parents in Arizona enjoy equal parenting time with their children. However, as we explain in more detail below, reasons may exist for a child to primarily live or spend time with one parent, while the other parent has limited time with the child.

    The “best interests” standard often generates disputes between parents. One parent may view a certain type of arrangement as ideal. The other parent may see it very differently. Many other issues can arise. For instance, one parent may be strongly in favor of maintaining a certain religious upbringing, while the other parent may feel it is detrimental to the child.

    Happy mother is hugging her cute daughter.Happy mother is hugging her cute daughter.Getting custody of a minor child can be challenging and full of emotional and practical hurdles. The process involves several key steps. The first step is to understand what is best for the child. Arizona, like many states, looks to what decision-making and parenting time arrangement will serve the “best interests of the child.”

    Arizona family law provides 11 factors for a court to consider when it determines what is best for a child in terms of decision-making and parenting time. Those factors are:

    • The relationship between child and parents
    • Interactions the child has with parents and other relatives
    • The child’s adjustment to things like school, the home environment and the community
    • If old enough, the child’s own wishes
    • The physical and mental condition of all parties involved
    • How well the parents demonstrate that they will be willing to facilitate an ongoing relationship with the other parent (except where abuse or assault are involved)
    • The overall conduct of each parent toward the court (such as honesty and not creating unnecessary delays)
    • Any evidence of domestic violence or child abuse
    • Any bad behavior of a parent such using pressure or coercion
    • Compliance with a mandatory joint parenting education requirement
    • Any false reports of abuse by either parent.

    How Does a Parenting Plan Work in Surprise, AZ?

    Sad girl holding her teddy bear while her mother is busy.Sad girl holding her teddy bear while her mother is busy.If you are a parent who is going through a divorce in Surprise, you should strongly consider the benefits of reaching an agreement on a parenting plan with the other parent. If you can agree on a plan, then it means that you – not a court – chooses who will make decisions that affect your child’s welfare and how much time you get to spend with the child. In your situation, the use of a child custody mediation may help you to reach an agreement with the other parent. If you can agree on a plan, it will ultimately spare you a great deal of time, stress and expenses.

    Under Arizona law, parenting plans must address certain items, including:

    • Will legal decision-making authority be sole or joint?
    • What are each parent’s rights and responsibilities for care of the child?
    • What is a practical parenting time schedule for everyone, including holidays and vacations?
    • How will the parents exchange the child?
    • If disputes and proposed changes arise, how will those issues be resolved?
    • What will happen if one parent breaches the agreement?
    • When will both parents conduct a periodic review of the plan’s terms?
    • How will the parents communicate about the child?

    An experienced child custody law firm in Surprise, AZ, can work with you towards reaching a parenting plan that achieves your goals as a parent. If you cannot reach an agreement with the other parent, then a lawyer can present your side to a court. Additionally, if any need arises to modify a parenting plan, your lawyer can help you to get through that process as smoothly as possible.

    Get Help from a Surprise, AZ Child Custody Attorney Today

    At Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC, we will pay close attention to your needs and your goals as you go through a child custody battle. We can address all issues that are important to you, including custody of your child. We understand how parents want to have a voice in major decisions about their child’s life and, above all, how they want to spend time with the child as he or she grows. Our experience in family law can make a difference for you. To learn more, call or reach us online today through our Surprise office. We can review your case together and discuss how we can assist you.

    Surprise, AZ Divorce Lawyers

    Getting a divorce in Surprise or elsewhere in Arizona can be either an easy or complicated process. It depends on the parties and their circumstances. For instance, if the parties disagree about the division of property, or if child custody and support issues arise, the divorce could become complex and lead to a lengthy court battle.

    At Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker PLLC, our Surprise, AZ divorce attorneys will listen closely to you and understand your goals as you go through a divorce. We will then pursue those goals in the most efficient and cost-effective manner as possible, including seeking an agreement with your spouse which can minimize your time in court. To learn more, call or reach us online today for a confidential consultation.

    Are You Eligible For a Divorce In Surprise?

    One of the first steps you must take in a divorce in Surprise is to determine whether you meet the Arizona divorce residency requirement. To meet that requirement, you or your spouse must have been “domiciled” in the state or stationed here as a member of the armed services for at least 90 days before the filing of the divorce petition. “Domiciled” basically means that you or your spouse are physically present in Arizona and intend to remain here for an indefinite period of time.

    Couple confrontation in lawyers office.Couple confrontation in lawyers office.If your divorce will involve child custody or support matters, you must have resided with your children in Arizona for at least six months before you file for a divorce. If you will ask a court to decide child custody or support issues, then Arizona must be your child’s primary residence. When you meet with our lawyers in Surprise to discuss your divorce, we can help you to determine whether you meet Arizona’s residency requirements.

    What Are Grounds for a Divorce in Arizona?

    For regular, non-covenant marriages, Arizona is a no-fault divorce state. So, you do not need to give any reason for why you are getting divorced. Instead, you must simply state that you believe that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.”

    Because of the nature of a covenant marriage, it is more difficult to dissolve. After all, when you enter a covenant marriage in Surprise or elsewhere in Arizona, you make a promise that the marriage will be a commitment for life. As a result, to obtain a divorce in a covenant marriage, you must assert specific grounds. Those grounds include:

    • Adultery
    • Commitment of a high-level felony (or one resulting in imprisonment or capital punishment)
    • Abandonment for at least one year prior to the divorce filing
    • Physical, sexual or emotional abuse (or domestic violence)
    • Living separate and apart for at least two consecutive years prior to the divorce filing
    • Regular drug or alcohol abuse.

    If you are currently in a covenant marriage, you can file for a divorce if you already obtained a legal separation, and you and your spouse have lived separate and apart for at least one year, or if both spouses agree to dissolve the marriage.

    When you work with Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC, an experienced Surprise divorce lawyer from our law firm can review your circumstances and explain what you will need to establish in order to obtain a divorce. If you must prove one of the above grounds in order to dissolve a covenant marriage, we can work with you to obtain and present the necessary evidence to establish those grounds.

    How Does The Divorce Process Work In Surprise?

    If you live in Surprise and meet the state’s divorce residency requirement, you would file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in Superior Court. At the time you file the divorce petition, you would need to serve a copy of it on your spouse. If the spouse lives in Arizona, the spouse would have 20 days to respond to the petition. If the spouse lives in another state, the spouse would have 30 days to respond. If your spouse fails to file any response, then you can file a request for a default.

    Sad woman removing her wedding ring.Sad woman removing her wedding ring.If your spouse wants to stay married, then your spouse can ask the court for a conciliation meeting or counseling. The divorce proceeding can be postponed for up to 60 days in order for the meeting or counseling to take place. If you and your spouse resolve your differences and agree to stay married, then you would file a request to dismiss the divorce petition. If not, then the divorce will move forward after the 60-day “cooling off” period passes.

    How long it takes to finalize the divorce will depend primarily on two factors:

    • Whether you and your spouse can agree on issues such as division of property, spousal support, child support, child custody (legal decision-making authority) and parenting time
    • The court’s schedule.

    While you cannot control the court’s schedule, you can do your best to agree with your spouse on matters related to your divorce and enter into a separation agreement. A separation agreement can avoid the time, expense and stress that will arise if you must ask a court to decide those matters in a hearing (or series of hearings).

    After you and your spouse enter a separation agreement or go through a divorce hearing, the court will issue a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. This decree will officially terminate the marriage.

    What Are Issues Related to Your Divorce?

    A divorce can involve several related issues that will require the assistance of an attorney in order to fully protect your rights and interests (and, depending on your circumstances, your children as well). Those issues include:

    • Property Division – Arizona is a community property state. All community property, or property held in common with your spouse, will be subject to division and distribution in a divorce. Typically, it is a 50/50 split. Property that you acquired before your marriage or as a gift or inheritance during the marriage is considered to be separate property. So, it will not be divided. It is important to work with a lawyer who will know how to identify and valuate community property and seek the amount you are due.
    • Couple signing their divorce papers.Couple signing their divorce papers.Spousal Support – Depending on your circumstances, you or your spouse may be eligible to receive spousal support, or alimony, upon dissolution of the marriage. Several factors must be taken into account when determining one’s eligibility for spousal support as well as the amount of support, including the standard of living established during the marriage and whether one spouse sacrificed his or her income and/or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse during the marriage. Keep in mind: Even if you or your spouse receives spousal support, it can end or otherwise be modified.
    • Child Custody – If you and your spouse are parents, then you will need to also take into consideration who will have legal custody of the children, or the ability to make decisions that affect the child’s welfare, and who will have physical custody of the child, or where the child will live. You should make the child’s best interest your primary consideration as that will be the standard which a court applies.
    • Child Support – Both parents are responsible for providing financial support of their child or children. Typically, if a child does not live with a parent, then that parent will be the one responsible for paying child support. If circumstances change, however, a child support order may be modified.

    Mediation can play a key role in the resolution of these issues. During mediation, a neutral mediator will work with you and your spouse to get you to reach an agreement on these issues. However, if mediation fails to produce an agreement, you should work with a lawyer who will be prepared to aggressively protect your rights and interests in the courtroom.

    How Can Our Surprise Divorce Attorneys Help You?

    The attorneys of Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker PLLC, understand how the terms of a divorce can significantly affect the future for you and your family. We will use our skills as negotiators and litigators to pursue the best outcome for you, including:

    • Meeting with you and taking the time to understand your objectives
    • Handling all of the technical aspects of your divorce, including making sure that all necessary documents are filed and served in a timely and professional manner
    • Negotiating with your spouse (or your spouse’s attorney) to reach a separation agreement that protects your rights and interests and meets your objectives
    • Presenting a solid case on your behalf in court if you and your spouse cannot agree on issues such as spousal support, property division, child support, child custody and parenting time.
    • Our Surprise family law attorneys are well-versed in all aspects of divorce. We will provide you with compassionate and professional legal guidance and representation throughout the divorce process.

    What Steps Can You Take Before a Divorce?

    The decision to go through with divorce is rarely an easy one to make. However, once you make that decision, you can take several steps to prepare yourself for a divorce. Those steps include:

    • Gather your financial information, including information about your income, bank accounts, credit accounts and outstanding loans.
    • Make a list of your personal and real property, including your home, other real estate, autos, household items, furniture, jewelry and other valuables.
    • Establish a budget that will allow you and your children to live within your means as your divorce is in the process of being finalized.
    • Find a place to live if you will be leaving the marital home.
    • Open your own individual financial accounts and close any accounts which you hold jointly with your spouse.
    • Notify your child’s school or caregiver if your separation or divorce will result in changes to your child’s schedule or change who drops off and picks up the child.

    Our Surprise Divorce Attorneys Are Ready To Assist You

    If you are facing divorce, an experienced divorce law firm can make a difference in the process and in the outcome for you and your family. To discuss how we can help you, contact Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker PLLC, today for a confidential consultation with one of our experienced and compassionate Surprise divorce lawyers.

    Wills and Trusts Attorney In Surprise, AZ

    It can be scary to think of your own mortality. Still, by creating a last will and testament or a trust, you can ensure that others will carry out your wishes after you pass away. Even a simple will can provide peace of mind and help you and your loved ones to know that things will be in order.

    At Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC, our Surprise, AZ will and trust lawyers can help you and your family to plan your estate and create solid, well-crafted documents that will stand the test of time and protect those you love. Contact us today to discuss the options available to you and learn more about how we can assist with your estate planning needs.

    What Happens If You Die Without a Will in Surprise, AZ?

    Arizona law sets out how a person’s estate will be distributed at death – if a person dies without a will. It is called the intestate succession statute. It basically establishes an order in which your loved ones will receive shares of your estate upon your death. For this reason, if you die without a will, your estate is described as “intestate.”

    Sick man writing his will and testament.Sick man writing his will and testament.There’s an old expression that some estate planning attorneys use. It goes, “If you don’t write your will, the state has already written one for you.” The saying refers to the fact that Arizona’s law controls distribution of your estate upon your death if you die without a will. The law may align perfectly with your wishes. However, it also may not. Do you want to take that risk? Is that really fair to your loved ones?

    Choosing to Create a Will or Trust in Surprise, AZ

    A will is a set of instructions for the living. Once a person passes away, all of their wishes pass with that document. A court must do its best to honor the wishes of the person who made the will. Once all of the property is distributed under a will, no one will have ongoing control over how estate funds get invested or spent.

    A trust, on the other hand, gives a person more control over the future of the funds in his or her estate. A trust serves as a contract between the decedent and the named trustee who is charged with managing the trust. The agreement requires the trustee to act in a certain way so as to preserve the trust and honor the decedent’s wishes.

    What Is the Difference Between a Will and Trust?

    As you decide whether to create a will or trust – or both – you should consider that a trust can do many things a will cannot. Here are a few of the important differences between a will and trust:

    • A will can leave money to an heir. A trust will make ongoing payments to the heir, which may be contingent upon certain behavior.
    • A will controls the distribution of property through a probate estate. Funds in a trust are not part of the probate estate.
    • A will can control assets that pass publicly. Trust assets are privately held and do not generally become public as part of a court proceeding.
    • A will has no impact on taxes. A trust can have powerful tax avoidance options for individuals with a high net worth.

    An attorney from Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC can discuss your estate planning goals and help you to create a will and/or trust that meets those goals.

    How Do You Create a Will?

    A will should provide clear instructions on how you would like the assets in your estate to be distributed after you pass away. You can make those instructions as general or as specific as you would wish. You could choose to leave your property in shares, or you could choose to list specific beneficiaries as recipients of specific types of property. For instance, you could leave a residence, vehicle or personal property such as art jewelry or heirlooms to one or more specific beneficiaries. You could also name a charity or other organization as a beneficiary.

    Last will and testament with gavel on top.Last will and testament with gavel on top.The will must also name an “executor” or “personal representative.” This person will be the one who carries out your wishes that you state in the will. Most people will name a spouse or other family member to serve as a personal representative. However, you could also choose a friend or someone else that you trust. It will be important to choose someone whom you can trust and to provide the personal representative with clear instructions.

    To properly execute your will, you will need to sign it in the presence of two witnesses. Those two witnesses must then sign the document within a reasonable period of time after you signed or acknowledge your will to them. You are not required to conduct this signing in front of a notary.

    With that said, you can expedite the probate process for your will if you make it “self-proving.” You can do this by signing an affidavit in a notary’s presence in which you acknowledge that you knowingly signed the will. Your two witnesses will need to sign similar affidavits in front of a notary as well.

    At Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC, our lawyers can draft a will that meets your needs and goals. We will also guide you through the steps of properly executing your will. Our goal will be to make the process as stress-free as possible for you and your family.

    Can You Change or Revoke Your Will?

    If you want to change any provision in your will – whether it is removing or changing beneficiaries or amending the shares or specific bequests – you can do so at any time. The two general ways to change your will are:

    • Codicil – You could add an amendment to your will, which is called a codicil. Like the original will, the codicil should provide clear instructions, properly signed by you and two witnesses and, ideally, self-proving as well.
    • Revocation – You could also choose to simply revoke your will and create a new one. You can revoke a will by destroying it, or you can make it clear in your new will that you have chosen to revoke the prior one.

    In some circumstances, Arizona law automatically revokes certain provisions of a will. For instance, if your marriage ends in divorce or annulment, any bequest to your spouse or appointment of your spouse as a personal representative will be revoked as a matter of law unless you expressly state that you do not wish to revoke those provisions.

    Trusts Specially Tailored to Meet Your Estate Planning Goals

    You could create a trust as an alternative to a will or in addition to a will. It will depend on your estate planning objectives. Your Surprise estate planning lawyer from Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC will provide information and guidance to help you make a decision. We will also tailor any trust that you create so that it meets your unique goals.

    If you choose to create a trust, it will involve transferring certain assets of your estate to the ownership of the trust. You will also need to name individuals or organizations who will benefit from the trust, or beneficiaries, and designate a trustee who will manage the trust’s assets. The trustee could be a family member, bank or other financial institution or anyone else whom you trust to manage the assets.

    Living trust and estate planning form on a desk.Living trust and estate planning form on a desk.As with a will, you will need to provide clear instructions for management of the trust. The trustee will have legal duty to follow those instructions. For instance, the terms of a trust may allow beneficiaries to gain access to the trust’s assets when a certain event occurs such as graduating from college or turning age 21.

    Today, you can create many different types of trusts. However, the two main types of trusts that our attorneys at Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC create on behalf of our clients in Surprise and surrounding areas are:

    • Revocable – A trust which you can change or dissolve at any time
    • Irrevocable – A trust which you cannot change in any way or dissolve.

    While you are alive, you may want to name yourself or your spouse as the trustee or a revocable trust in order to directly manage the trust’s assets. If you name yourself as the trustee, you could appoint someone to serve as a successor trustee and assume management of the trust if you become incapacitated or die. Again, our goal at Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC will be to customize any trust that you wish to create.

    What Is a Beneficiary Deed?

    You do not need to address all of your assets in a will or trust. Some assets, like real estate, can be addressed through a deed which gives an automatic interest in property to a designated beneficiary. For instance, if you name a close friend or loved one as your beneficiary under a deed or name the person as a joint tenant with the right of survivorship, your property can pass directly to that individual without ever passing through your will.

    However, you must be careful with a beneficiary deed. Naming a beneficiary in a deed can have serious ramifications during your lifetime if you do not handle it properly. Some elderly residents of Surprise, Arizona have lost their homes while they were alive due to problems created by a beneficiary deed. For that reason, before you create one of these documents, you should first get knowledgeable and skilled advice from an experienced living will attorney.

    What Is The Difference Between Guardianship and Conservatorship?

    As we age, we can lose certain physical or mental functions. Medical conditions like a stroke or Alzheimer’s disease can lead to a loss of the ability to manage our own affairs. If a medical problem or cognitive decline leaves you unable to pay your bills, make healthcare decisions and manage daily your life, a court proceeding may be necessary to protect you.

    Last will and testament with wooden judge gavel.Last will and testament with wooden judge gavel.If you give powers of attorney to another, trusted individual, it can avoid the need for such court proceedings. Still, as with many estate planning decisions, many people put off designating powers of attorney for too long. If sufficient powers of attorney are not in place, or if powers of attorney are not enough to accomplish the tasks that must be performed on your behalf, someone may need to petition the court to be appointed as your guardian or conservator. A few important things to know about guardianships and conservatorships are:

    • Guardianships – In a guardianship, someone is granted the power to make individual decisions for another person. These decisions usually involve things like:
      • Daily needs
      • Household needs
      • Healthcare decisions
      • Getting medical records
      • Filling prescriptions
      • Talking to doctors.
    • Conservatorships – In a conservatorship, someone is given the power to make financial decisions for another individual such as:
      • Opening and closing bank accounts
      • Buying or selling real estate
      • Handling business affairs
      • Paying taxes
      • Dealing with creditors
      • Paying utility bills
      • Managing rental properties.

    Our law firm can discuss health care and/or financial powers of attorney with you. We can also provide guidance and representation if you seek a guardianship or conservatorship due to a decline in your loved one’s physical and/or mental health.

    Contact a Meticulous Estate Planning Lawyer in Surprise

    The attorneys of Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC can assist you with powers of attorney, guardianships, conservatorships, wills, trusts and all of your other estate planning needs. We are here to help you to make the right choices about how to protect your estate and preserve your assets for your loved ones. Contact us today through our Surprise office and get started on building the right estate plan for you and your family.