Even though it’s inevitable, most people don’t want to talk, think, or plan for their death

According to AARP, 71% of Americans under the age of 34 do not have a will.  Even more surprising, only 41% of Baby Boomers have a will.  This same study cited a general discomfort with discussing death as the main reason that most of these people have not created a will.  Americans also claim that they don’t have the time to handle their estate and worry about how complicated the process can be.

Despite the fact that many Americans are putting this off, death is inevitable.  100% of us will die and, without adequate planning, we can leave substantial problems for our loved ones.  Deciding large issues, like who will take care of your children, or small issues, like who will get your grandmother’s pearl earrings, should be determined by you and communicated through an estate plan.

So, what are your options?

1.)    Intestacy – You always have the option to die without a will.  This takes any control over your estate out of your hands and places it in the hands of the state.   Although the courts are very adept at determining legal issues, it is not the proper place to determine something as personal as your final wishes.  The court does not know you and your family and can only try to guess as to what you would have wanted.

2.)    Will – A will is simply a document that describes what you want done with your property.  You can appoint someone (a personal representative) to carry out your directions or the court will do it for you.  In order to have a valid will in Arizona, you must be over 18 years old; you must be competent when you make the will; you must sign it; and there must be two competent witnesses that sign it, too.

3.)    Trust – A trust is used to appoint someone (a trustee) to hold your property for the benefit of another person (a beneficiary).  You can be the trustee and beneficiary of the trust.  The trust can also benefit a loved one, a charity, or even a pet.  A trust can be created during your lifetime for your own benefit or the benefit of someone else.  It is also used to avoid probate and provide for the distribution of your property when you are deceased.

4.)    Beneficiary Deed – A beneficiary deed allows you to create a deed, during your lifetime that will transfer your property to someone on your death.  You can revoke the deed at any time or sell or refinance the property without any restriction.

5.)    All of the above –Depending on your situation, certain property may be best set up in a trust or through a beneficiary deed, while other property is best devised in your will.  Finally, any item that was not addressed in a will, trust, or deed will pass according to Arizona’s intestacy laws.

A will is like a last letter to your loved ones.  It tells them that you cared enough about them that you wanted to make sure they didn’t have to deal with more legal issues than necessary after your death.  Grieving is difficult enough for your family without them having to worry about probate or your final wishes.

If you would like to discuss your options in estate planning, contact a Phoenix estate planning attorney at 480-464-1111.