Whether it be for tax and financial purposes or simply preparing your estate to be easily passed on to those of your choosing, estate planning is a vital tool to protect that which is yours. Estate planning has many aspects to it, but one of the most common estate planning tools used to financially and legally protect assets, as well as to distribute them, is the creation of a legally valid last will and testament.
What is a Will?
Arizona is a “community property” state, meaning that all property and assets, except for inheritance or gifts obtained by either spouse throughout the extent of a marriage, belongs equally to both parties. But, legally passing these things from one spouse to another, or even to other loved ones following a death, tends to be both extremely time consuming and difficult if there has not been proper estate planning.
One of the most effective and commonly used estate planning tools for transferring assets and property is a will, as it offers security and control of your assets, property and final wishes. The security and control that a will offers comes when a will is executed correctly and legally, therefore officially setting forth your wishes
Role of Arizona Wills
Arizona wills do the following:
- Name a personal representative (often called an executor)
- Name a guardian for any minor children
- Decide how an estate is distributed
- Minimize estate taxes
- Avoid lengthy probate
- Protect hard earned property and assets
Role of a Personal Representative
All wills designate a predetermined individual to serve as the personal representative (often known as an executor). This person is chosen by the individual creating the will.
The only requirement to be a personal representative is that they must be a legally competent adult. This allows for the representative to be family members, friends, or even the attorney assisting with your estate planning.
Following a death, the decedent no longer owns or controls any property. In order to transfer all of the property to living beneficiaries a personal representative must be named.
Arizona laws refer to personal representatives as the individual in charge of managing the affairs of a deceased person’s estate. If a will was created, the representative will be in charge of reading the will and distributing property and assets listed to the named beneficiaries.
Avoiding Probate Court
The most expensive cost associated with the dispersion of an estate is the cost of going through probate court. Arizona estate laws require probate court for the legal dispersion of an individual’s estate, but if the deceased had a valid will then they will not need to go to probate court because all property and assets are automatically transferred to the beneficiaries at death.
Arizona requires the estate of individuals without a will to go to probate court, as most property and assets such as a house or bank account require a legal transfer, as they are not automatically transferred at death. This can only be done by a judge once someone passes away.
For some estates this process is relatively easy, but no matter the size of the estate, there will be court and legal fees associated with going through probate court.
What Happens if I Die Without a Will?
If you die intestate—without a will—your property and assets will be distributed by the State, and they will do so according to a set, legal formula. This legal formula is a one-size-fits-all approach and the court proceedings may not be to your beneficiaries’ likings.
If you die without a will, your final wishes may not be carried out in the manner that you would have hoped for. Often times this means that instead of being able to properly grieve, your loved ones may be burdened with the process of distributing your property according to their discretion and the will of a court.
The process of distributing property and assets following the death of a loved one is not easy if you die without a will. Mandated probate court will be necessary to transfer property and assets, and subsequently your loved ones may be further burdened and will be forced to pay any and all court fees associated with distributing an estate.
Even though the state of Arizona follows an acceptable formula when distributing your assets, their actions cannot replace the fact that they will not be distributing your assets and property the way you would have. Even though your loved ones will be inheriting most of the things you leave behind, the process will be much more difficult and can end up costing them large sums of money.
Do You Need a Lawyer to Write Your Will?
Many estate planning documents can be prepared or downloaded online, but they are one-size-fits-all documents that often are not specific enough to fit your needs. Most importantly, they may not fully protect your hard earned assets and property.
Arizona law does not necessitate the need for a lawyer to be involved in the creation of a will, however, having an experienced estate planning attorney involved in the process proves to be extremely beneficial when it comes to ensuring a will is valid and made to fit your needs.
If you are looking to protect and pass on the property and assets that you worked tirelessly for, hiring an estate planning expert is a necessity. As the attorney prepares a will on behalf of your estate, you can be sure that the will follows your desires, protects your hard earned property and provides you and your family peace of mind.
Call Arizona Estate Attorney Dave Weed at (480)467-4325 to discuss your case today.
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