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Don't be a Picasso: Avoid estate planning pitfalls

You'd likely agree with most Arizona residents who might say they'd love to own an estate worth $30 million or more. That's approximately how much the great master Pablo Picasso's estate was worth when he died in 1973. The only problem was that he never executed an estate plan. If you don't want your loved ones to have to navigate a lengthy probate process, you'll want to keep several ideas in mind to help them avoid it.

Picasso was 91 when he died. His heirs battled it out in probate court for six years before they settled his estate, comprised of over 40,000 works of art, homes, a brand name and stock investments. You don't have to trod a similar path because there are valuable estate planning tools and resources available to help you protect your assets and loved ones' best interests.

Dying without a last will and testament leads to probate trouble

Perhaps you don't like to think about your own mortality or discuss financial issues. Nevertheless, neglecting to execute a last will and testament is a common mistake that can cause your loved ones to become entangled in probate litigation after you die. Executing a will allows you to determine how to distribute your assets.

Especially if you have children who are currently minors, a last will and testament allows you to specify who should become their legal guardians, if needed. You can also appoint an executor to administer your estate. It's helpful to have a family meeting to make sure someone you trust has access to your financial documents, medical records and other private accounts.

Estate planning should involve updates

An estate plan helps your children and other beneficiaries avoid disputes and probate complications. However, it won't serve your family well if you execute a plan but fail to keep it updated.

Contentious probate battles often erupt when a divorce or remarriage takes place, new births occur or other issues arise that would logically necessitate estate plan updates, but estate owners died without having made the needed changes.

Business owners have special estate planning needs

While you may not have a multi-million dollar estate like Picasso, if you're a successful business owner, you can incorporate instructions for succession into your estate plan. Who should run your business? Who should own it? Are there any systems or processes you want to remain unchanged as integral components in the daily function and transactions of your company?

You can address these business issues and more by writing explicit instructions and clearly defining the terms of the business plans you want your heirs or beneficiaries to carry out after you die. You can ask someone well-versed in estate planning laws to review your plan before you sign it to make sure you have covered all bases and have adhered to all Arizona estate planning and probate regulations.

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