Arizona Estate Planning Attorney

Arizona Estate Planning Attorney

Estate Planning Attorney

Estate Planning Attorney & Lawyer in Arizona

Legacy and Estate Planning

Estate planning is really about family.

One of the best gifts you can give your family is a written plan of your wishes – it truly is a gift of love.  Creating a proper estate plan allows you to protect the people you love most after you’re gone. With an estate plan, you can save your loved ones from the expenses and stress of going through the probate process and from unnecessary fighting, hurt feelings, and animosity among family members. It’s a relief and a saving grace for families during times when emotions and stress levels are already high. 

Every adult should have an estate plan – it’s just a question of how complex the plan is.  The complexity varies with family situations, wishes, and financial assets.  Unfortunately, many people don’t have an estate plan because they don’t have a full understanding of what a plan entails or how they and their loved ones can benefit.  An estate plan is a set of legal documents outlining a person’s wishes when they’re unable to make decisions or at death. When a person has an estate plan and passes away, the plan outlines how and when assets should be distributed, allowing family members to avoid probate and save time, money, and stress. An estate plan also includes documents that state who is to take guardianship of children, who cares for pets, and how a person would like their medical needs and finances should they become temporarily or permanently incapacitated and unable to speak for themselves. 

Create your legacy

A good estate plan allows you to create your legacy by planning beyond simply dividing assets. A legacy plan is essentially a blueprint for your life’s work and how it will live on and evolve after you’re gone.  Your customized plan is a starting point that outlines the plans you have for your successes, investments, belongings, and more. Many people also choose to emphasize intangibles such as values, traditions, religion, education, or charitable causes for their family to hold on to in their memory.   

Every adult in the United States, regardless of age or net worth, should have a proper estate plan. An estate plan is a set of documents that control what happens to you, your assets, and even your loved ones if you become incapacitated or when you die. Here are ten benefits of having a proper plan in place:

Legacy and Estate Planning Documents

We’ll help you put together a complete and detailed plan to represent your wishes for yourself, your family members and other beneficiaries, and your belongings should you become temporarily or permanently incapacitated or pass away. Your complete legacy/estate plan from Woods Law Group will consist of a large, organized collection of thorough and detailed documents, including:

Our estate plans are fully customized for each client and his or her unique situation, because one size never actually fits all. You need more than just simple documents; you need a custom plan that work for you, your family, your unique situation, and your legacy. Though the legal mechanics of estate planning documents can be very complex, Woods Law Group will make the process of creating your custom plan simple and easy to understand.

Failing to plan your estate will likely force probate for your loved ones– a lengthy, costly, preventable burden after you pass away. Probate typically costs much more money and time than completing a quality estate plan. Probate usually costs at least several thousand dollars, takes a minimum of five months, and is stressful and emotionally draining for everyone involved. Most people find great value in the benefit their estate plan offers to their families, and they feel a sense of relief once their plans are documented.

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10 good reasons to have an estate plan

Probate is the process by which a court distributes assets after someone dies. Unfortunately, probate proceedings are public record and often cost a great deal of money (typically a few thousand dollars, if no one is fighting and there are no problems or complications), take a minimum of 5-6 months to complete, and cause substantial hassles and family conflicts, on top of losing a loved one. That means that your family or other loved ones may have limited access to your money and assets after you die for at least 5-6 months! Thankfully, appropriate trust-based estate planning can help avoid probate entirely. It is important to note that Wills do NOT avoid probate – dying with a Will but no trust ensures probate.

If you do not create a will that names who you want to take care of and raise your minor children, the court is going to decide for you. Thankfully, you can decide who will raise your children if you plan appropriately.

If you do not create a proper estate plan, the state of Arizona will decide who will inherit your assets and in what percentages after your death through a probate.

Through a proper plan, you can protect your hard-earned money and ensure that it not only goes to whom you want, but when you want, and how you want. Additionally, you can help protect the assets from future lawsuits, creditors, bankruptcies, and even marriages or deaths. How can you protect your money against marriages or deaths? Imagine that after your death, one of your four children, your 20-year-old son, gets married to someone you wouldn’t have approved of. Five days after the big wedding, your son is killed in a tragic auto accident. Without additional planning, your new daughter-in-law is going to inherit all of your son’s assets, including the inheritance you left him at your death. Many people would prefer that their life savings would go to their surviving children in such a scenario, rather than the new spouse. The only way to protect against this type of scenario is to establish a quality estate plan.

Unfortunately, there are many people who see new widows and widowers are targets that can easily be taken advantage of. A newly widowed spouse has often received large infusions of cash because of life insurance or retirement account payouts. Meanwhile, they are often suffering from grief, shock, and vulnerability because of the death of their loved one. Such a combination can make them an easy victim for those who may which to con, cheat, or use them for their financial gain. A well-thought out estate plan can help protect against that by instilling provisions that limit how much the money the surviving spouse has access to at any given time. Of course, the surviving spouse must have sufficient means to provide for him or herself, but the ability to say “I cannot access all that money now” may make all the difference in the world.

Without a proper plan, a person with special needs risks being disqualified from receiving social security or Medicaid benefits (ALTCS or AHCCCS). Proper planning can help them stay qualified for such benefits, and can protect the assets you leave behind at the same time. Even if a child or other family member does not have special needs now, such provisions are typically included in many of our estate planning documents just in case the need arises later. Special needs may include, but is not limited to, the following conditions: autoimmune disorders; autism spectrum disorder; cancer; cardiovascular disorders; heart attacks; dementia; diabetes; liver disease; end-stage renal disease; hematologic disorders; HIV/AIDS; chronic lung disorders such as serious asthma or emphysema; chronic and disabling mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder, major depressive disorders, or schizophrenia; neurologic disorders such epilepsy, paralysis, Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease; and strokes.

Families that have children from prior relationships have special concerns that traditional families simply do not share. It is crucial for blended families to plan so that children and current spouses are provided for as you want. Failing to plan here will nearly always result in unintended and undesired consequences, such as the disinheritance of the children from prior relationships.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t always go the way we want it to. Many times, people lose mental or physical capacity long before they think they will. Car accidents, strokes, and heart attacks happen every day. If you have a comprehensive estate plan, you can plan for what happens if something happens to you, including how you are to be treated, and how is your money to be spent. If you do not have an estate plan, you have likely lost that ability, perhaps forever. Additionally, your family and loved ones may be unable to care for you legally (such as the inability to access your bank accounts to pay bills, or to make medical decisions on your behalf) if you have failed to plan, so they may be forced to seek a guardianship or conservatorship from the court. Those proceedings are types of probates and can easily cost several thousand dollars, all while wasting precious time. Thankfully, proper planning can avoid those scenarios.

If you fail to plan for what happens to your business after your death or incapacity, you have likely sentenced your business to death too. Very few small businesses survive the loss of its owner unless proper planning was done beforehand. You can choose who will own and control the business.

What you would have done if someone gave you $1,000,000 when you were 18-years-old? Bought a Ferrari? Houses? Dates? Drugs? Alcohol? Gambling? More than likely, that is what your children will do with their inheritance too if they receive it too young – waste it. It takes the average recipient of an inheritance a mere 19 days until they buy a new car. One study found that 70% of wealthy families lose their wealth by the second generation, and a stunning 90% by the third generation. Yes, that’s right, in 70% of cases, mom and dad’s life savings (including life insurance) is spent by their kids and nothing makes it to the grandkids. It does not matter if the inheritance is $10,000,000 or $20,000 – it is gone quickly most of the time. Do you want your life savings spent way? If not, you need to set up a trust based estate plan to ensure that doesn’t happen. There are ways to prevent children from wasting their inheritance, but they require planning. A simple Will doesn’t cut it.

If you aren’t sure whether you need an estate plan, we can help. If you meet one or more of the conditions on our list, and most adults do, you need and will benefit from an estate plan. If you’d like to talk with an attorney, please call us at (480) 360-1776.

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Serving Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa, Gilbert, Chandler, Tempe, Peoria, Glendale, Avondale, Goodyear, Surprise, the Sun Cities, and beyond.

 Thompson Reuters Super Lawyer