Changing Your Estate Plan For The New Year
The year is coming to a close, and 2023 will be here soon. It’s a good time of year to reflect on all of the events from the previous 12 months. You may have seen family members get married, divorced, or have children- or you may have had these experiences yourself. Someone in your family could have also developed an illness or condition that affects their long-term ability to maintain independence, or come into money making any contributions from your estate irrelevant. If there have been serious changes to your family structure in the past year, it may be time to make or edit your estate plan. A well-crafted estate plan will execute your wishes efficiently and reduce the amount of time your estate spends in probate, or even avoid it altogether. Our experienced Mesa estate planning lawyers are available for free consultations- call to schedule at 480-448-9800.
There are almost infinite events that could happen within a family and merit changes to an estate plan. It also isn’t uncommon for more than one of these events to happen in a one-year time frame.
- Divorce, legal separation, or annulment
- Death of spouse or family member
- Development of a temporary or permanent illness, injury, or disability
- Buying, selling or starting a business
- Buying or selling a home
- Inheriting property
- Birth or adoption of a child
- Child’s college decision
- A car accident or other serious accident
Start With A Will
If you don’t have any documents in your estate plan, you should start with your last will and testament. Most people only associate a will with dictating which relatives should receive which assets after a testator passes away. However, that isn’t the only important thing that a will can do. Failure to utilize these two functions could make things much more complicated if you pass away when it all could’ve been addressed in your will.
The person who makes sure that a will is distributed as the testator planned is known as the “executor.” The executor is responsible for filing the will and death certificate with the court and guiding the estate through the probate process. Clearly, these are important responsibilities- especially if the decedent has loved ones who are relying on financial support from the estate. Thankfully, a testator can choose someone they trust to be the executor in their will. It is also wise to name an alternate executor in case the first-choice executor predeceases the testator or is otherwise unable to complete the duties of an executor. This will ensure that there aren’t delays in the probate process due to an irresponsible executor.
There is no doubt about it- if you have minor children, you should have a valid will in place. The third important purpose of a will- besides distributing assets and naming an executor- is naming a legal guardian for your children if you pass away before they reach adulthood. This can reduce confusion and uncertainty if there were ever a worst-case situation in which authorities didn’t know where to place your children. It’s highly important that you discuss it with someone before naming them as your child’s legal guardian in your will. Even if that person truly loves your children, they may be privately dealing with something that would make it impossible to take over the care of orphaned children, which would only make things more difficult if not sorted out in advance. An alternative guardian can be named, just as an alternative executor.
Modifying A Will
After major life events, there may need to be minor changes to a testator’s estate plan. In many situations, it’s easier to just destroy the will and start over with a new one. When only minor changes are necessary, changes can be made official through a codicil. Codicils are used to add, revoke, or change terms from existing wills. To see if it would be more beneficial to use a codicil or create a new will, call our firm for your free consultation at 480-448-9800.
Arizona Small Estate Affidavit
There is an assumption that every estate in the state of Arizona must go through probate. However, Arizona also allows small estates to bypass probate using a small estate affidavit. Each state has its own limits for real property (real estate) and personal property (everything else) to qualify as a small estate. The executor must also wait a certain amount of time to file a small estate affidavit for real and personal property. In Arizona, a decedent must have been deceased for at least 30 days to use a small estate affidavit for personal property, and the personal property’s value cannot exceed $75,000. For real property, the decedent must have been deceased for at least 6 months and the real property can’t be worth more than $100,000. Anyone named in the will can file a small estate affidavit, and if the decedent dies intestate, any of the decedent’s relatives can file a small estate affidavit.
Avoiding probate is a desirable goal when it comes to estate planning. Probate can be costly, especially if there are issues such as someone challenging the will’s validity. If an estate spends too long in probate, attorney’s fees and court costs could eat up the estate. Some estates are so close to the limits that it is fairly simple to use legal instruments to bring them under Arizona’s property limits for small estates. Estates of higher value will need more planning to avoid probate, as well as tax liability. For more information, call to schedule your free consultation with our firm 480-448-9800.
Other Instruments For Your Estate Plan
Oftentimes, there are numerous benefits to using documents in addition to a will to create an estate plan. It could keep younger loved ones from squandering your estate before they are mature enough to appreciate it. It could be used for a specific purpose, such as education or contributing to charity. It could also help your estate accrue more value in the meantime. You may also want to include documents in your estate plan regarding your medical care should you become legally incapacitated. Some of the legal instruments you may want to consider for a thorough estate plan include:
- Trusts (Revocable and Irrevocable)
- Powers of Attorney
- Living Will
- Advanced Health Care Directive
Some combination of these documents may be appropriate for your situation, or you may benefit from less commonly-used legal instruments. To discuss your situation with an experienced Gilbert estate planning lawyer, call 480-448-9800.
Affordable Arizona Estate Planning Attorneys
Are you looking to start or change your estate plan and don’t know where to start? At My AZ Lawyers, our Arizona estate planning team has experience drafting a variety of documents that can make our clients’ end-of-life plans clear. We will make sure you fully understand the plan you are creating and give you advice about how to communicate this plan with your loved ones. Your legal plan will be in compliance with state law so that it will stand up to any potential challenges in probate court. Our rates are affordable, and we leave our clients satisfied. To learn more, contact us now to schedule your free consultation with our firm at 480-448-9800.
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