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Why you need an estate plan whether you realize it or not

Many people think that only wealthy Arizonans need an "estate plan." It sounds very grand. However, if you own property and have some accounts, you have an estate, and it may be bigger than you realize.

You can and should designate beneficiaries on your bank, investment and retirement accounts as well as your life insurance policy. However, that's only part of the picture.

If you have a home, do you want a family member to inherit it or would you like it to be sold so that the proceeds divide among your favorite charities? These are decisions you can make in an estate plan. If you don't determine who will inherit your estate when you die, state law will.

If you have children, putting guardianship designations in place will help ensure a smooth transition if something happens to both parents. Even if you don't have children or they're grown, what about your pets? Are you certain that a family member or friend will take them? What if things don't work out? Animals end up in shelters every day: Pets entrusted to loved ones are given up because a frightened animal bit or scratched their new caregiver or someone had an allergy they didn't know about.

Even if you don't want to think about your death just yet, some of the most important estate planning documents are designed to be used while you're still alive. With durable and health care powers of attorney documents, you designate trusted people to handle your finances and oversee your health care if you are so ill or injured that you aren't able to speak for yourself.

An advance health care directive lets you make your wishes known for things like under what circumstances you want to be kept alive. This prevents your loved ones from being placed in the position of having to decide what you would want.

You can develop an estate plan that's as simple or complex as you choose. However, with experienced legal guidance, you can help ensure that you have one that meets your unique needs and is best for your family. Our website provides valuable information on estate planning in Arizona.

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