Who needs estate planning?
The answer is: Everyone who is over 18 years of age. People often say, "I don't have that much so why do I need a will?" However, even small estates can be messy and complicated if one dies without a will. Also, people who are without significant property still need powers of attorney to handle their bills should they become disabled. I am amazed at how many guardianships we have to petition for just because an older adult never got around to doing a health care power of attorney. It is important to ask and answer key "What if?" questions regarding health care, decision-making and financial decision-making during one's lifetime as well as how your estate is distributed and who is in charge of your estate at your death.
A well-thought-out estate plan is one of the most worthwhile legal investments one will make. A complete estate plan typically includes at least the following three documents:
A last will and testament expresses your wishes for distribution of your assets after death, appoints a personal representative for your estate, a guardian for any minor children, and a trustee for any persons who become entitled to receive while still minors.
A durable power of attorney for financial decisions appoints an agent to make decisions for you if you are disabled and unable to handle your own financial affairs, and an alternate agent to act if your designated agent cannot act.
A health care directive is three documents in one. The health care power of attorney appoints the agent or agents you want to make your health care decisions in the event that you are incapable of doing so. The mental health power of attorney grants your agent the authority to consent to inpatient treatment for you. Finally, the living will sets forth your wishes regarding extraordinary "end-of-life" measures that you do not want taken once treatment becomes futile.
Other estate planning documents include:
A revocable living trust: Sometimes wills just don't provide enough flexibility, and they often will require probate. Also, if you have real property outside of Arizona, or a child or grandchild with special needs or creditor and money management problems, or substantial retirement assets that you don't want to leave outright to spendthrift beneficiaries, then you probably need a revocable living trust.
A special needs trust can be placed within your revocable living trust or it can be a standalone trust document, which is sometimes preferable, especially if you have other family members who might also leave funds to your special needs beneficiary. Special needs trusts are designed to protect the beneficiary who is eligible for income or resource sensitive programs, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or ALTCS (Arizona's version of Medicaid).
The Law Office of Catherine Leas, P.C., in Sun City, Arizona, offers full-service estate planning to residents of Northwest Valley or beyond if they wish to drive to Sun City. Most of our clients are referred by other happy clients and some have even dropped by our offices and made an appointment because they liked our warm-welcoming atmosphere. They stayed with us because of the caliber of our estate planning services.
We Can Create, Review Or Update Your Will And Other Key Estate Planning Documents | We Can Help You Administer An Estate
We welcome the opportunity to evaluate your goals and concerns related to any aspect of estate planning in Arizona, or any aspect of probate, guardianships or conservatorships. Call 602-842-6903 or email us to schedule a consultation with estate planning lawyer Catherine Leas.