Phoenix Estate Planning Lawyer

Consulting with one of our experienced attorneys to prepare your estate plan is the first step to ensure that you protect your assets and your family in the event of your incapacity or death. These situations are often unexpected, and it is critical that you have the proper estate planning documents in place ahead of time to minimize complication and confusion for those closest to you. If a proper estate plan is not in place, court involvement is often required to provide a resolution to the situation—something no one wants a loved one to experience. Lincoln & Wenk, PLLC has experienced estate planning attorneys that will create a personalized plan to accomplish your goals, regardless of family dynamic or size of income.

What is Probate?

Probate is the process in which the court appoints someone to have legal decision-making authority for a decedent’s estate. After a “Personal Representative” is appointed, this person addresses the final expenses, taxes, and creditor claims of the estate and makes the distributions to the deceased person’s beneficiaries. The probate process often requires paying an attorney to prepare documents and represent you in court, as well as court filing fees for the case.

Probate can delay your beneficiaries from receiving their inheritance. It can also prevent your beneficiaries from receiving their entire inheritance. Most probate proceedings take approximately a year after the decedent’s death to resolve, although more complex cases could take longer. Your beneficiaries will have to wait for the probate process to end before they inherit.

Dying without a Will or Trust in Arizona could mean the state will award some or all of your assets to an estranged family member or someone you may not wish to inherit from your estate. You should not only create an estate plan, but also update it every few years or whenever you have a major life event.

What Is Estate Planning?

Estate planning includes the steps you take to manage the assets and debts left in your estate when you pass away or if you are incapacitated. If you pass away without a Will, Arizona law prescribes how your assets will be distributed pursuant to the law of intestacy. Creating a Last Will and Testament allows you to specify exactly how to administer the estate and who will be in charge of doing so.

Some aspects of estate planning involve bypassing probate for certain assets, including using trusts or special accounts. Our experienced estate planning attorneys will be able to guide you through the process of doing what is necessary to avoid probate and provide recommendations regarding what course of action may best suit your needs.

What To Include in Your Estate Plan

Depending on factors such as the size of your estate, the value of your assets, debts, and how many beneficiaries you wish to name, you may need several documents for your comprehensive estate plan. When you call us to meet with an estate planning attorney, we can advise you on the following:

  • Last Wills and Testaments
  • Revocable Trusts
  • Irrevocable Trusts
  • Pour-Over Wills
  • Financial Powers of Attorney
  • Healthcare Powers of Attorney

Each of these documents serves an important purpose in your estate plan. When choosing which estate planning solutions best fit your situation, consider consulting your financial advisor. Your financial planner and our estate planning lawyers can coordinate and advise you about how to protect your assets from probate and manage how your beneficiaries inherit your assets.

What You Should Know About Trusts

The most common type of trust is a revocable living trust, which serves primarily to avoid probate. This trust is fully revocable and amendable by its creators during their lifetime. Upon the trust creator’s death, the trust becomes irrevocable, ensuring that the decedent’s wishes cannot be changed.

Because trusts bypass probate, the assets held in trust and the distributions of those assets never enter the public record. Sometimes, even your beneficiaries won’t know who else was a beneficiary or what the other beneficiaries received. This is often preferable for many clients over a Will, which does become a matter of public record in probate court.

If you place your assets in a trust, you may not “need” a Will. However, a pour-over Will—which leaves all of your assets to your trust—can serve as a safeguard in your estate plan by transferring any new or overlooked assets to your trust after your death.

Planning for Incapacity and End-of-Life Care

Our estate planning lawyers can also help you plan for incapacity. With durable powers of attorney and advance medical directives, you can ensure that your family knows your wishes and has the power to make decisions on your behalf.

Powers of Attorney and Living Will

A Financial Power of Attorney allows you to appoint an agent to manage certain decisions when you cannot do so yourself. To maintain power of attorney through incapacity, you must grant your agent a “durable” power of attorney.

A Healthcare Power of Attorney allows your agent to make medical decisions on your behalf during your incapacity. This includes decisions about medical tests, treatments, drugs, and procedures, as well as whether to maintain your life support. In Arizona, you also should grant your agent mental healthcare power of attorney for mental health treatments.

You can create a Living Will/Directive to Physicians to inform your Healthcare Power of Attorney agent and your treating healthcare professionals of your desired treatment. In a Living Will, you can describe tests and treatments you would be willing to receive, as well as palliative care. Importantly, this also includes information about what treatment you do not want, such as overly invasive treatments.

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Estate Planning Attorney in Phoenix, AZ

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Arizona Estate Planning FAQ

Below are answers to some of our most frequently asked questions about estate planning in Arizona.

Q.

Who inherits when there is no will in Arizona?

A.

When you pass away without a Will or trust, called “dying intestate,” Arizona follows its laws for intestate succession. Intestate inheritance includes rules for determining your heirs. Heirs may include your:

  • Current spouse
  • Children or descendants with your current spouse
  • Children or descendants from a previous relationship
  • Parents (if no children or spouse)
  • Siblings (if no children, spouse, or parents)
Q.

Do I need a living trust in Arizona?

A.

This depends on your situation. Certain situations make a trust more desirable than others. For example, those with special-needs beneficiaries or young children can greatly benefit from a trust because a trust can protect loss of government benefits or the establishment of a conservatorship by the court. Other situations are simpler and can be adequately addressed without a trust. At Lincoln & Wenk, our attorneys will evaluate your situation and let you know which path is best for you.

Q.

How do I avoid probate in AZ?

A.

Trusts are typically the most comprehensive way to bypass probate. Other tools for bypassing the probate process include transfer-on-death accounts, beneficiary deeds, and adding “right of survivorship” to eligible property. Our estate planning attorneys can advise you of the various options for avoiding probate.

Call us at 623-294-2464 or contact us to schedule your consultation today.

GOODYEAR OFFICE
1616 North Litchfield Road, Suite 140, Goodvear, AZ 85395
Goodyear Office Location
PHOENIX OFFICE
20830 N Tatum Blvd, Suite 210 Phoenix, AZ 85050
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PEORIA OFFICE
14050 N 83rd Avenue Suite 290, Peoria, AZ 85381
Peoria Office Location