Having a will is one of the most important steps you can take to care for your loved ones after you are gone. It lets you designate how you want your assets and possessions distributed and who will care for any minor children. Many people avoid or put off writing a will, but estate planning doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Let an experienced Buckeye Wills lawyer help ensure your final wishes are respected.
At Pennington Law, PLLC, we help clients craft wills, trusts, and other estate planning documents that protect their assets and provide for their families. Contact us for a confidential consultation with a Buckeye wills attorney today and start planning for the future.
What Should Be Included in Your Will?
Having a will ensures your wishes are known and respected after you die. However, a legally binding will needs specific information. You should include the following key elements when creating a will.
Directions for Asset Distribution
List who will receive each asset when you pass away. You might include specific assets, such as cars, jewelry, or a home, or broad categories, such as savings accounts or investments.
The Name of an Executor
An executor handles the distribution of your estate. Choose an executor who is trustworthy, responsible, and well-versed in the laws of your state.
Beneficiary Names and Contact Information
Include all the names and contact information for each beneficiary in your will. By doing so, your executor can easily contact them when the time comes.
Instructions for Any Real Estate You Own
If you own a home or other real estate, explain how you want it handled after you pass away.
Determining the Guardians for Your Children
If you have children, select a guardian responsible for caring for them if something happens to you.
Notation on Whether You Created Trusts for Your Beneficiaries to Use
If you have established trusts for your beneficiaries, provide detailed information about those trusts in your will. Include the trust’s name, management and distribution instructions, and the trustee’s contact information.
What Should You Gather in Preparation for Making a Will?
Gathering the correct documents ahead of time makes the process of creating a will go smoother. Information you might need includes the following:
- Your personal information, including full legal name, address, date of birth, and Social Security number
- A complete list of your assets and debts, including property titles, bank accounts, stocks and bonds, life insurance policies, and any other financial instruments
- A list of beneficiaries, which includes to whom you wish to leave your property or assets
- A list of executors, or individuals who will manage the distribution of your assets after your death
- Any special instructions regarding asset distribution
- Funeral instructions
How Can You Change Your Will?
In Arizona, you can revoke or change your will at any time if you have the mental capacity to understand your actions. There are two ways to legally change your will: creating a new one that revokes all previous wills, or adding an amendment to your existing will, also known as a codicil.
A legally valid new will must be witnessed or prepared as a holographic will (meaning one that is in your own handwriting), which is a document written and signed by the testator (the person creating the will). This document must include the testator’s signature, the date, and details of the changes made. In addition, two witnesses, both present when the testator signs the document, must also sign it.
If you choose to add a codicil to your existing will, it needs the signatures of the testator and the two witnesses present when the testator signed it. In addition, the codicil needs the date listed and the changes made to the original.
Changing your will is an important decision, so seek guidance from a Buckeye, AZ, lawyer before making any changes. They will help ensure you take all necessary steps and properly document your wishes.
What Are Reasons for Challenging a Will in Court?
The death of a loved one is difficult enough for surviving family members. However, matters become more complicated if there is a dispute over the last will and testament. Common reasons for challenging a will in court include the following:
- Fraud – If someone forged the signature of the testator or falsified information in the will, then this could be grounds for a fraud challenge.
- Undue Influence – If someone coerced or intimidated the will-maker into changing their will, this could also lead to a challenge in court.
- Coercion – If someone was persuaded through fear or intimidation to change their will, this could be grounds for a challenge.
- Counterfeit – If the will is not an original document, it could be invalid and lead to a challenge.
- Vagueness – If the language in the will is unclear or vague, this could lead to challenges in court.
Along with these primary reasons for challenging a will in court, there are other situations in which someone may contest a will. These include a will that does not adhere to specific formal requirements or if there is an omission or mistake. Speak with an experienced Buckeye, AZ, lawyer to determine if you have a case for contesting a will.
What is a Living Will?
A living will is a crucial component of estate planning for those wanting to plan for their future medical care. Otherwise known as an advanced directive, it allows you to state in advance what kind of medical treatment you do and don’t want if you become incapacitated, including decisions like intubation, resuscitation, life support, and other specified treatments. In addition, you can specify if you want aggressive treatments to prolong your life or palliative care focusing on comfort measures.
Living wills also guide family members and doctors during an already difficult and emotional time. However, it is essential to note that a living will does not replace a traditional will, which covers all other aspects of estate planning.
What Happens if You Die Without a Will in Buckeye, Arizona?
No one wants to think about their mortality, but having a plan for your assets and possessions in the event of your death is crucial. When someone passes away without a will, they are considered “intestate,” which means that the state of Arizona determines how your assets are divided and inherited. This process is called “intestate succession,” and depending on the specific circumstances of your case, could involve:
- If your spouse survives you, but no descendants do, your spouse inherits your estate.
- If you have a spouse and descendants from the marriage at the time of your death, your spouse will inherit your estate.
- If you have a spouse and descendants from a previous relationship, your spouse and descendants will both inherit different parts of your estate, which is an outcome that many clients do not want
- If you have surviving descendants but no spouse, your descendants inherit your estate.
- If you die without a surviving spouse or descendants, your parents inherit your estate.
- If you die without a surviving spouse, descendants, or parents, your siblings inherit your estate.
- If you die without surviving spouse, descendants, parents, or siblings, your nieces and nephews inherit your estate.
Only in the unlikely circumstances that you die without a will and no surviving family members will your estate assets get turned over to the State of Arizona. For this reason, having a valid will that protects the assets you worked hard for throughout your life is crucial.
Why You Need a Buckeye, AZ, Lawyer to Handle Your Will
While you could write and execute a will on your own, having an experienced Buckeye, Arizona, lawyer handle the process is the difference between an easily enforceable will and one that may be open to challenge. An experienced Buckeye estate planning attorney assists with:
- Knowledge of the Law – A qualified Buckeye, AZ lawyer is well versed in Arizona’s estate laws and can confirm your will complies with all applicable regulations.
- Professional Assistance – A lawyer provides legal advice and assistance to ensure your will clearly states your wishes.
- Asset Protection – A lawyer advises on protecting assets, such as real estate and investments, when making your will.
- Tax Planning – An attorney understands tax implications and minimizes tax burden.
- Avoid Contested Wills – With an experienced lawyer’s assistance, you can avoid common mistakes that lead to contesting a will after death.
- Change an Existing Will – As your life circumstances change, so may your will. An attorney can help you make changes that reflect your current wishes.
Creating a legally binding will requires careful consideration and preparation. However, by consulting with a Buckeye wills lawyer, you can rest assured that your estate is handled according to your wishes.
Contact a Buckeye, Arizona, Wills Attorney Today
Making a will is an integral part of planning for the future. It’s not just about deciding who gets your things when you die — it’s also about protecting your wishes and safeguarding your family. To ensure your will is legally binding and valid, speak with a Buckeye, Arizona, wills attorney at Pennington Law, PLLC.
Our law firm provides comprehensive and personalized estate planning services to clients in Buckeye and the surrounding areas. To get started on your will today, contact us for a legal consultation. We look forward to helping you express your wishes in a legally binding and valid way.