Estate Planning

pexels photoIt’s difficult to think about, and plan what happens after you die. You assume that because you don’t have many assets that your estate is straightforward. That you don’t need a plan.

In reality, about 50 percent of adults don’t have an estate plan because they don’t understand its purpose or don’t think they need one.

An estate plan is a gift to your loved ones, both before and after your passing. It allows your family to act on your behalf in the event you are incapacitated so they are comfortable knowing they are doing what you want. It allows you to state your wishes for your assets so your loved ones don’t have to do that for you.

Think of your estate plan as an insurance policy, something you have “just in case” something happens. With an insurance policy, you may or may not need to cash in on your policy if you get into an accident. But you will use your estate plan. It’s a fact of life: Someday you’ll no longer be here.

LGBT couples often have special circumstances, in the event of an accident. Without the proper estate plan, a partner may be legally precluded from having a role in the decision-making of his or her loved one or even having access to his or her partner in the hospital. An estate plan protects both partners.

If you have a pet, Arizona law allows you to create a special trust to provide the necessary funds for someone to care for them after your death. Taking the time to have a pet trust prepared can give you the peace of mind to know your pet will be fully cared for.

Estate planning services include:

  • Last Will and Testament
  • Durable Power of Attorney
  • Health Care Power of Attorney
  • Living Will
  • Mental Health Care Power of Attorney
  • Final Disposition Instructions
  • Revocable Living Trust
  • Irrevocable Trust
  • Special Need Trust
  • Parental Power of Attorney
  • Domestic Partnership Agreement
  • Prenuptial Agreement

The Process

The estate planning process begins with an initial consultation so I can gather some background about your situation. You’ll fill out a questionnaire prior to that meeting and bring additional documents to our consultation. You’ll want to gather a list of assets, your bank name, a beneficiary list for any current assets, etc.

During our meeting, we’ll discuss all of this information and I’ll recommend what documents are best suited to your needs. There may be some additional information you need to gather and I will then have your documents drafted in about two weeks. Once you’ve had time to review them, I can make changes as needed.

Then you’ll come back to the office so we can review the documents in detail and you can sign them.

It’s my goal that you walk away from our final meeting knowing exactly what your estate documents say and fully understand what we’ve done together.


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Q & A for Estate Planning

I don’t have a ton of money or property. Why would I need an estate plan?

The single most common estate planning myth is that you have to be rich to have one. The definition of an estate, in the legal sense, is the property (real and personal) a person owns at their death. Whether the value of the property is $500 or $5,000,000, you have an estate. Having an estate plan lets your loved ones know what you would like done with that property after your death. No matter the size of your estate, an estate plan allows your family the peace of mind that they’re honoring your wishes.

How often should I update my Will?

Because circumstances in your life change, so should your will. If you’ve gotten married or divorced, had children, retired, changed lifestyles, etc., you should read and update your will. If you’ve lost contact with the attorney who drafted your original Will, I encourage you to give me a call so we can review it together and make sure that your wishes are still the same.

Do I need an estate plan if I’m married?

While a married person with straightforward wishes for the distribution of their property has less need of estate planning, this does not necessarily mean that they can skip estate planning altogether. Under normal circumstances, any jointly-held property will pass to the surviving spouse upon the death of the first spouse. But what happens if the surviving spouse gets married? Or if the spouse who dies has children from a previous relationship? And what if both spouses die together? An estate plan takes these questions off the table.

Do I need an estate plan or just a Last Will and Testament?

It depends. An estate plan is really made up of several documents, including your Last Will and Testament. Some of the documents are used by your family when you are alive but incapacitated while your Last Will and Testament is only used after you pass away.

What if I don’t have a Durable Power of Attorney and I am in an accident?

Even if you’re married, your spouse won’t be able to do things on your behalf if you are incapacitated. Without a Durable Power of Attorney in place, your spouse or other family will have to go through a conservatorship/guardianship proceeding with the court to be formally appointed to handle your affairs. These proceedings are very costly, usually starting around $3,500.

Can I put my adult children on the title to my house to avoid probate?

Yes, you can co-own your home with your adult child with right of survivorship, which will technically avoid probate. But understand that creditors of your child will see your house as one of their assets, which may not be in the best interest of your child. There are better options available that can prevent probate.

LGBT Estate Planning

We can celebrate since Arizona now recognizes same sex marriages! Marriage provides many benefits, but I understand the sometimes complex situations and family dynamics for same sex couples and I can help guide them through these issues.

I also know that not all same sex couples will choose to tie the knot. The need for an estate plan then becomes critical in case of an accident or illness that renders the partner incapable of making decision or managing his or her affairs.  Without the proper estate plan, the other partner could be legally precluded from having any role in the decision-making of his or her partner’s care, managing his or her affairs, or even having access to the incapacitated partner in the hospital.

Some of the documents I prepare are:

  • Last Will and Testament
  • Durable Power of Attorney
  • Health Care Power of Attorney
  • Revocable Living Trust
  • Hospital Visitation Authorization
  • Parental Power of Attorney
  • Domestic partnership Agreement
  • Prenuptial Agreement

Pet Trusts - Planning for your petPlanning for pets - Pet Trusts

Over 500,000 pets are abandoned each year due to the death and disability of their human companions.

What will happen to your pet when you can no longer care for them? Arizona law allows you to create a special trust to provide the necessary funds for someone in whom you have confidence to care for your pets after your death. By taking the time to have a pet trust prepared, you can have peace of mind knowing your pet will be fully cared for the way you love and care for them now.  By setting up a pet trust, you   will decide who will take care of your pet when you are no longer able to do so. The trust should be funded with sufficient assets or property to care for your pet for its expected lifetime. When deciding on the amount, be sure to keep in mind any special needs such as medical conditions. Funds can be used for:

  • Travel
  • Food
  • Veterinary care
  • Insurance
  • Toys
  • Treats
  • Recreational activities
  • Pet-sitting
  • Anything else needed to maintain your desired standard of living for your pet

If you want to ensure your pet has a happy and healthy life, please contact me to discuss a pet trust.

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11225 N. 28th Drive Suite D213, Phoenix, Arizona 85029