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Last Will and Testament

If for some reason you can only create one document for your estate plan, this is probably the one you should make. Your last will and testament, or just your will, serves three major purposes: (1) distribute your estate when you pass away; (2) assign an executor to your estate; and (3) name a legal guardian for your children. Also known as a will, a last will and testament is a legal document that, when you are deceased, expresses your final wishes. A will allows you to name heirs that will receive your assets, and appoint guardians for minor dependents. A court will use your last will and testament when closing out your estate.

Distribute your estate

A will is one of several instruments you can use to transfer your estate to your loved ones. You can use exact terms in your will, e.g., “I leave my Toyota Corolla to my son, Bob,” or your terms can be more vague, e.g., “I leave my vehicles to my children.” You can also leave money and other assets to a charitable organization in your will.

So why do people use documents besides wills to pass down their estate? Although a will is one of the simpler ways to pass down assets, it isn’t always the most efficient. Estates passed through a will must go through probate unless they qualify for a small estate affidavit. Probate can take several months or even years to complete. If an estate is tied up in probate for several months due to will disputes, your beneficiaries could also spend thousands on probate attorney’s fees. Probate is also a matter of public record, which could be an issue for you or any of your beneficiaries who value privacy.

Assign an executor to your estate

An executor is the person who makes sure the court validates your will and distributes your estate according to its terms. Some of the major responsibilities that come with being an executor include filing the testator’s will and death certificate with the court, dealing with debts and taxes for the estate, inventorying the testator’s assets, and more. There will be additional responsibilities if there are will disputes or challenges from creditors. An executor can ask the court for reimbursement for their work at a reasonable hourly rate.

Name a legal guardian for your children

If you have children, it’s always best to name a legal guardian- and an alternate-in your will. Your children may go straight to your chosen legal guardian, or the judge can take your opinion into account for future custody proceedings. If you split custody with your children’s other parent, they will typically get full custody of your children should you pass away before they turn 18.

Arizona Wills Attorney

A common misconception about estate planning is that you don’t need to worry about it until you’ve reached a certain age. However, life is unpredictable, and your estate plan could become necessary at a much earlier age than you previously thought. There are several types of documents that you should create in order to make the best estate plan for your situation.

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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. 

last will and testament legal document

Arizona Will Requirements

Your will needs to be validated by the court after you pass away, and also must stand up against any challenges brought by disgruntled family members in probate court. That means you must meet the statutory requirements for a will in your state. In Arizona, your will must be written. This can either be handwritten or typed, but there is no such thing as an oral will in Arizona. Only someone who is at least 18 years old and of sound mind can create a will in Arizona.

You, the testator (or sometimes the testatrix for women), must sign the will. The will also must be signed by two witnesses. It’s not required, but having your will notarized will speed up the validation process and strengthen it against challenges.

What Happens if You Don’t Have a Will?

When you pass away without a will, this is known as dying “intestate.” Intestacy laws differ from state to state. For example, in Arizona, the estate of someone who passes away without a will goes first to their surviving spouse and descendants, if they have any. Furthermore, if the person has no surviving spouse or descendants, the estate will then pass to their surviving parents, or their parents’ surviving descendants, if there are any. Also, if none of these relatives are available, the court will need to look further back on the family tree to find beneficiaries for the estate. If none are available, your estate will go to the state.

So Which Should I Create? A Last Will or a Living Will?

You don’t need to choose between a last will and a living will. A comprehensive estate plan will usually include both of these. They are both important ways to prepare for you and your family’ future, but come into play at entirely different times. But creating the best possible last will and living will for your situation can be complicated. Mistakes could tie your estate up in probate for months or even years, cost your family extra attorney’s fees and taxes, or even make your estate plan more susceptible to challenges in probate court. Get it done right by hiring an experienced professional to create your ideal estate plan. Our Arizona estate planning team has the skills and knowledge to help you and your family get the most out of your estate plan. Our expertise comes at budget rates with payment options to work with your budget. To get started today, call 480-833-8000 to schedule your free consultation.

Codicils (Will Amendments)

To create a valid will in Arizona, you must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind. A will can be revoked, or canceled, at any time that the testator is of sound mind. The same goes for if the testator wishes to make small changes to their estate plan. If you want to amend your will, you can do so through a document known as a codicil.

Codicils work best if you have a fairly simple will or estate plan. If you have a complex will with many assets and beneficiaries, you will probably need to revoke your will and start over with a new one. But if your estate plan is brief, a codicil can be a much simpler way to make the changes you want -to make. They also only require one witness signature in Arizona, versus two with a will. For help deciding which is the best path for you to change your estate plan, call (602) 609-7000 for your free consultation on creating a will or estate planning in Arizona.

Our Legal Process

Will & Estate Legal Process in Arizona
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Contact an experienced Arizona Estate Planning Attorney to handle your future estate legal matters. Our legal team will help you to schedule a free consultation with a lawyer who can answer questions and provide assistance and guidance in your specific estate planning case.

Work Directly With An Attorney

The role of our Estate Planning law firm is to provide clients in Arizona seeking assistance withWills, Trusts, Probate, and Estate Planning. Our attorneys work with clients to assure that every aspect of an estate plan is not only legally sound, but that every aspect of your future is protected according to your wishes.

Receive Your Legal Documents

Having a well-defined estate plan means working with an attorney who will provide the necessary legal documents involved in estate planning. These documents, for example, include a Last Will and Testament, a document granting Power of Attorney, and Advance Medical Directive, and a Revocable Living Trust.

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Our Arizona Will Attorneys know that there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to Arizona Estate Planning matters.  When you work with our experienced AZ Estate Planning Team you should expect highly personalized legal services executed in a timely and cost-efficient manner.  Our “Client First Approach” is evident from your initial free consultation all the way through to final sign off.  Contact our trusted attorneys today.

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