What Are the Elements of a Successful Estate Plan?
A will is just one of many documents you should include in your estate plan. Estate planning makes use of many different legal instruments to protect you and your family. The vital parts of a successful estate plan include the following:
Power of Attorney
A power of attorney (POA) authorizes a person known as an agent to act on your behalf if you become incapacitated. They can handle your personal, financial, or medical affairs if you can’t make sound decisions.
Last Will and Testament
A last will and testament directs the transfer of property in your estate when you die. If you don’t have a will, intestate succession laws determine the administration of your estate. That means assets will pass based on your surviving family, such as a spouse or child in the line of succession. Intestate estates typically spend more time in probate.
When you create a living will, you select an agent to make your decisions if you can’t communicate your wishes yourself due to incapacitation. Your agent is legally authorized to inform your doctors of your preferred medical care, such as CPR, medications, and when, if ever, to take you off life support.
Parent Contingency Plan
Thinking about death is scary. You might want to avoid the topic, but choosing who should care for your children when you die is crucial to their well-being. With a parent contingency plan, the person or people you pick will be responsible for raising your kids how you would. You can include a financial power of attorney so they can access your finances to pay for necessary expenses if you’re alive but unable to communicate.
A living trust is a legal agreement between you and your successor trustee. As the primary trustee, you maintain control of the trust during your lifetime. You can revoke it anytime and transfer assets into and out of it. When you die, your successor trustee will oversee the administration and distribute the remaining assets to your beneficiaries.
What Is a Trust?
A trust is a legal document involving the grantor (who establishes the trust) and an appointed trustee. The grantor can also be the trustee and handle the trust while alive. They must select a successor trustee to assume control over the trust and oversee the distribution of the assets upon their death.
What Is Probate Administration?
Probate administration is the legal process of validating a deceased person’s will and authorizing the transfer of assets according to their estate planning documents and state law. There are three types of probate in Arizona:
- Formal Probate – Formal probate proceedings require a judge to oversee the case to resolve disputes, such as the contestation of a will or who should serve as the personal representative.
- Informal Probate – If no one challenges the will’s validity, the estate can go through informal probate. The court will confirm that the personal representative can fulfill their duties and allow them to proceed with minimal supervision.
- Supervised Probate – Some estate plans require a judge to monitor every stage of the process. If a personal representative must go through supervised probate, they can’t take action without court approval. For example, a judge must authorize asset distribution or payment to a creditor.
What Is a Guardianship?
Guardianship is the ability and obligation to make important decisions on behalf of someone who cannot do so themselves. That person may be a child, an elderly person, or anyone who cannot manage their personal affairs.
Anyone with an interest in the welfare of that person can petition the court to be their guardian. A doctor must confirm incapacitation for the court to proceed with the case. A judge will appoint a lawyer to represent the incapacitated person and determine whether the requesting party should have legal authority over personal matters.
Guardianship is also available for minor or dependent children. You should consider naming a guardian in your estate plan if you have kids. Whoever you choose will step in and handle their care if you die or become incapacitated.
What Is a Conservatorship?
A conservatorship is similar to a guardianship, except that the conservator merely manages the person’s financial affairs rather than making all major decisions on their behalf. The law requires conservators to maintain detailed records of accounting activity and provide the probate court with yearly reports.
What Is Estate Litigation?
Disputes can arise while administering someone’s estate; filing a lawsuit might be the only way to resolve the matter. Estate litigation can involve various issues regarding a deceased person’s estate, such as:
- Handling claims from a creditor to pay back debt
- Challenging the validity of a will
- Resolving a dispute during probate
- Investigating fraud by the personal representative or a trustee
- Holding someone accountable for coercing or forcing the grantor into creating an estate planning document in a specific way
What Does an Estate Planning Lawyer Do?
An estate planning attorney creates the legal instruments for the handling of a person’s estate, finances, property, and medical care. They do so by:
- Drafting a last will and testament
- Finding methods of avoiding probate
- Setting up trusts to protect the grantor and their beneficiaries
- Selecting a personal representative for the estate
- Locating potential tax liabilities and finding ways to avoid them
- Establishing a medical or financial power of attorney
- Determining whether to include guardianship in the estate plan
How Much Does an Estate Plan Cost?
The cost of estate planning depends on the estate’s size, the number of beneficiaries, and several other factors. You should talk to a Surprise, Arizona, estate planning lawyer about your needs and what crafting an estate plan to meet them might cost.
How Can a Surprise, AZ Estate Planning Lawyer Help?
Pennington Law, PLLC can handle all aspects of planning your estate, including by:
- Reviewing, drafting, or updating wills, trusts, and other documents
- Probating the estate of your loved one
- Appointing a healthcare surrogate to manage your medical care in the event that injury, incapacitation, or illness prevents you from expressing your wishes
- Drafting and modifying powers of attorney
- Guiding guardianship or conservatorship proceedings
Contact an Experienced Surprise Estate Planning Attorney Today
Whether you’re in the beginning stages of planning for the future or you’re interested in updating documents you executed in the past, Pennington Law, PLLC is ready to serve as your trusted advocate. Call or contact us online to speak with an experienced Surprise, Arizona, estate planning attorney.