Last Will vs. Living Will
Understand the Difference When Creating Your Ideal Estate Plan in Arizona
You’re probably familiar with the terms “last will and testament” and “living will,” and possibly think they’re used interchangeably. However, they actually serve different purposes in your estate plan, so you may want to consider using both. Read on to learn more about the differences between a last will and a living will, and if you have additional questions, call 480-833-8000 to schedule your free consultation with one of our Arizona estate planning lawyers.
Your last will and testament, or simply, “your will,” is a foundational document for your estate plan. It serves three major functions: distributing your assets, naming your executor, and selecting a legal guardian for your minor children.
Distributing Your Assets
A will is one of the legal instruments that can be used to distribute your assets upon your death. You can leave your estate, which consists of real and personal property, to your heirs, or beneficiaries, in this document. Real property is real estate, or property attached to land. Personal property is almost every other type of property, such as vehicles, electronics, furniture, etc. While this may be the simplest way to decide who will receive your possessions, it may not be the most efficient. Depending on your circumstances, careful estate planning could allow you to bypass probate, which is a process that every will must complete before assets can be distributed per its terms. Other estate planning instruments, such as trusts, may also allow you to avoid added tax liability for your estate. To discuss your options with a knowledgeable estate planning lawyer, call 602-609-7000.
Naming Your Executor
The executor of an estate is the person who is responsible for completing each step of the probate process so that the estate can be distributed. Failure to name your own executor in your will can result in a stranger or even a creditor being designated as the executor of your estate. If you name your executor in your will, they can file your will and death certificate with the court. Your executor will need to make sure all the debts and taxes associated with your estate are paid, and inventory all the assets in the estate. Once all of these responsibilities have been completed, your executor can distribute your estate among your beneficiaries. Clearly, you will want to name someone trustworthy to complete these duties. You should also name an alternate in case your original choice is unable to complete their duties for any reason.
Selecting a Legal Guardian for Your Minor Children
If your children are under the age of 18, they will need a legal guardian if you (and their other parent, depending on your custody situation) pass away. Just like your estate executor, you should have a first choice as well as a backup guardian selected just in case. If you know who you would like to take care of your children if you pass away before they reach adulthood, you should let the court know in an official document rather than leave it up to chance that the court selects that person without guidance.