Are you thinking about establishing a comprehensive estate plan? Do you need guidance on creating a will that reflects your needs? If so, a Sun City West will attorney from Pennington Law, PLLC, is here to help.

A will is an essential tool in estate planning. You should execute a last will and testament regardless of your financial status, assets, and family situation. A will isn’t only for the wealthy. It is a valuable tool for communicating your final wishes to your loved ones and ensuring they receive the assets and personal items you want them to have after you pass.

You should refrain from taking the do it yourself (DIY) approach and using a template or form you find online as many of those create more problems than they fix. Contact Pennington Law, PLLC, by phone or contact us online today for a free consultation to start drafting your last will and testament.

What Should Be Included in Your Will?

There are multiple aspects of a will you should incorporate during estate planning, including the following:

The Name of an Executor or Personal Representative

Appointing an executor, or personal representative, of your estate is crucial. That person is responsible for specific duties related to your will. They must enter it into probate so a judge can validate it and authorize the administration of your estate. The personal representative also pays taxes and debts, protects your assets, and closes the estate after fulfilling their legal obligations.

Directions for Asset Distribution

An essential part of a will is the section that advises your executor about transferring your assets when you die. You must provide detailed instructions on every asset in your estate, such as bank accounts, real estate, and personal property. List the beneficiaries for everything and clearly state whether they should receive partial or total shares. You should also inform your executor of family heirlooms or sentimental belongings you’re leaving to specific loved ones to prevent arguments over who gets what.

Beneficiary Names and Contact Information

When naming beneficiaries in your will, confirm their names and contact information first. Someone might get married or divorced and have a different name than you thought. You must include their address, phone number, and other details so the personal representative can contact them when necessary.

Instructions for Any Real Estate You Own

If you own real estate, clearly state the property and corresponding beneficiary in your will. You might want to designate alternate beneficiaries if one of them dies or isn’t available to receive the real estate upon your death.

Determining the Guardians of Your Children

If you have minor children, assign one or multiple guardians to assume the parenting role if you die or become incapacitated. The judge has the final say in who should be the guardian, but they will consider your guardian appointment if you include one in your will.

Notation on Whether You Created Trusts for Your Beneficiaries

If you establish trusts as part of your estate plan, mention them in your will. That way, your beneficiaries know they’ll receive specific assets upon your death without going through probate.

What Should You Gather in Preparation for Making a Will?

Preparing to create a will can be overwhelming. You can simplify the process with adequate preparation. Planning to draft requires documentation such as:

  • Existing mortgage for a home
  • Birth and/or death certificates
  • List of bank accounts, including the institutions and account numbers
  • Retirement account information
  • Property deeds
  • Names and contact information for bankers, financial advisors, CPAs, and insurance agents
  • Funeral plans and burial plot information, if available
  • Marriage licenses and divorce certificates
  • Investment portfolios
  • Insurance policies and beneficiary designations

How Can You Change Your Will?

Changing your will is possible with two options:

  • Revoke the Will – You can revoke your will anytime before your death. However, you must be of sound mind for the revocation to be valid. You can revoke your will by executing a new one and stating somewhere in it that it should replace your old will.
  • Perform a Revocatory Act – Under Arizona law, you can revoke your will by obliterating, tearing, canceling, destroying, or rendering unreadable a copy of the will. Even if the burn, tear, or cancellation didn’t touch any of the words on the will, the revocatory act would count if the testator (the person creating a will) performed the act with the intention to revoke the will.

You should never throw your will away or write your desired changes on an already executed document. Those actions can confuse your loved ones and lead to disputes, as it isn’t a legally enforceable method of modifying a will.

What Are the Reasons for Challenging a Will in Court?

Anyone with interests in an estate can challenge a will by filing a lawsuit with the probate court. That can include a spouse, child, heir, personal representative, named beneficiary, or creditor. However, there must be legal grounds to contest a will, such as:

  • Coercion – If a testator executes a will because someone forces them, it likely won’t reflect their wishes. A judge can deem the will invalid if they discover someone forced or threatened the testator to sign the document against their will or include provisions they don’t want.
  • Fraud – An interested party can challenge a will’s validity if the testator executes it under false pretenses. For example, a beneficiary might misrepresent the facts or lie about the document the testator signs. That means the will might include components based on false information, or the testator executed it without knowing what it was.
  • Vagueness – A will must contain clear language that no one can misinterpret. Contesting the will is possible if the terms are confusing or don’t include enough detail. Vague provisions might be interpreted in a way that’s inconsistent with the testator’s final wishes.
  • Counterfeit – A counterfeit will doesn’t meet the requirements of a valid will under state law. Someone might trace, forge, or photocopy the testator’s signature or write the entire document themselves.
  • Undue Influence – The court can invalidate a will if there’s evidence of someone subjecting the testator to undue influence. Undue influence often occurs between the testator and a person with whom they have a close relationship, such as a child, live-in caregiver, or another heir. An heir could try to benefit from the will by influencing the testator’s decisions about asset distribution.

What Is a Living Will?

A living will isn’t like a last will and testament. Rather, it is a legal document outlining medical treatment preferences if the author is incapacitated. You don’t have to wait for old age or a diagnosis of a terminal illness. Anyone can benefit from a living will because an accident or injury can occur at any time.

A living will communicates preferred medical care to healthcare professionals if you can no longer speak for yourself or make sound decisions. It relieves your loved ones of the burden of making difficult decisions, especially if they don’t know what you would want. It can also prevent arguments or confusion over your wishes.

You should name a surrogate to instruct your doctors on handling your treatment if you’re in a coma or otherwise incapacitated. A living will can include decisions regarding preferred medications, life-sustaining treatment, and CPR.

What Happens if You Die Without a Will in Sun City West, Arizona?

If you die without a will, your probate assets will pass to your heirs by intestate succession. That means surviving family members, such as a spouse or child, will receive part of or all your assets depending on how many people outlive you.

If you have a spouse, they will inherit half of your community property (the assets acquired by either spouse during a marriage). They can receive all community property if there aren’t other descendants from the marriage, such as children or grandchildren. Your spouse can also inherit all community property if your property is under a community property with the right of survivorship and your descendants are from a previous marriage.

Your children have rights to your assets if they are your legal children. That means they are biological or adopted children. The portion of your estate they inherit will depend on your marital status, how many children you have, and whether you share them with your spouse.

Why You Need a Sun City West, AZ, Lawyer to Handle Your Will

You need someone with experience to help with your last will and testament. Without a lawyer, you might make errors, and the court could deem your will invalid, creating challenges for your loved ones.

A lawyer from Pennington Law, PLLC, knows the ins and outs of wills and can prepare for possible problems. We can identify your assets, value your estate, and advise you on the provisions you should incorporate into your will.

Whether you have a simple estate or a complicated high-value one, we can assist with tasks such as:

  • Making provision for a child or dependent adult with special needs
  • Choosing beneficiaries to receive your assets
  • Protecting a net worth near the estate tax exemption from taxes
  • Setting up a living will to prepare for accidents, injuries, and incapacitation
  • Selecting a trusted personal representative to administer the estate
  • Establishing clear instructions on how to distribute your property

Contact a Sun City West, Arizona, Wills Attorney Today

You can’t learn everything that a last will and testament entails by conducting independent research on the internet. Instead, turn to a knowledgeable and resourceful Sun City West, AZ, will lawyer from Pennington Law, PLLC. We offer the legal advice and guidance you need to make an informed decision about your will.

If you want to draft or update your last will and testament, do not hesitate to call us or contact us online today for a free consultation.