A last will and testament is a vital component in estate planning. It is the central document outlining your final wishes, directing assets to loved ones, and appointing guardians for minor children. It can ensure your legacy lives on and provide the care and support your family needs long after you’re gone.
At Pennington Law, PLLC, we help clients draft, modify, and revoke wills. We will guide you in incorporating the necessary elements to meet your needs and protect those who mean the most to you. Learn more about what a Surprise, AZ, will lawyer can do for you by contacting us for a free consultation today.
What Should Be Included in Your Will?
You might know you need a will but have put it off because of the other responsibilities in your life. Planning for death isn’t fun for anyone. However, protecting your kids, safeguarding your finances and securing your family’s future is necessary.
You can ensure assets such as a home or bank account transfer to your spouse, child, or sibling by naming them as a beneficiary. A will is especially vital for people with young children or relatives who depend on them for daily care and assistance. You can appoint a guardian to assume responsibility for your dependents when you die.
An out-of-date or poorly drafted will can disrupt your plans and create challenges for your family when it’s time to administer your estate. When you make your will, consider essential elements such as:
- Naming an Executor or Personal Representative – You must select a personal representative and name them in your will. Without one, the court can decide who should serve. A personal representative is responsible for completing multiple tasks to close out your estate, such as paying estate taxes and distributing property to beneficiaries.
- Mentioning Any Trusts You Set Up for Beneficiaries – If you established trusts for your loved ones, such as a minor child or relative with special needs, mention that in your will. Trust assets can provide for the beneficiary’s care or transfer on a predetermined schedule, depending on your preferences.
- Directions for Distributing Your Assets – You can name an immediate relative, business, friend, charity, or trust as a beneficiary in your will. Choosing a secondary beneficiary is a good idea if the primary one dies or isn’t available to receive your property.
- Beneficiary Names and Contact Information – When naming beneficiaries, use their legal names. You must update your will to reflect the name change if someone gets married or divorced. Locating your loved ones can be challenging if the personal representative doesn’t have the correct names and contact information.
- Instructions for Real Estate You Own – If you own real estate, determine who should receive it and how. Instead of leaving it as part of your estate, you can create a living trust, transfer on death (TOD) deed, or joint tenancy with a right of survivorship. Your beneficiaries can avoid probate and assume automatic ownership upon your death.
- Appointing Guardians for Your Children – If you have kids, one of the most important aspects of estate planning is naming guardians in your will. You should select one or multiple people to take over your minor child’s care if you die before they turn 18. Determine whom you trust to raise your kids as you would and provide the same standard of life.
What Should You Gather in Preparation for Making a Will?
Drafting a will doesn’t take much preparation, but writing down the necessary information and gathering specific documentation can simplify the process. You should gather details including the following:
Decide who you want to serve as the personal representative of your estate. Specifically, state their role in your will and name a backup in case your original choice can’t or won’t fulfill their obligations.
Think about the people you want to protect when you die. List each individual as a possible beneficiary and determine which assets they should receive.
Carefully inventory your assets and write them down. You should include everything you want to leave to your loved ones. Start with high-value property such as a primary residence, vacation home, car, and family business. You can work toward less valuable assets and personal items or family heirlooms.
You must account for your debts, especially the ones you might still owe when you pass away. They can affect your estate when your personal representative administers it. Knowing your financial situation and determining how your personal representative should cover these costs, such as with a trust or specific asset, can prevent your family from dipping into their bank accounts.
You must sign your last will and testament before two witnesses who also sign. Ask two people whether they will be witnesses so you can execute the will immediately.
How Can You Change Your Will?
You can update or revoke your will anytime while alive if you do it with intent or if someone else does it in front of you and with your direction. You can change a will using any of these methods:
- Revocatory acts such as tearing, obliterating, burning, rendering unreadable, canceling, or destroying the entire will or part of it
- Executing another will to replace the previous one
What Are the Reasons for Challenging a Will in Court?
No one can challenge a will because they’re upset with its contents. Feeling cheated out of assets a person believes should be theirs or upset by end-of-life care choices aren’t valid reasons. The courts take a person’s last wishes seriously.
Contesting a will requires substantial evidence of misconduct, such as:
- Counterfeit – A will is counterfeit if someone forges a signature or fakes the entire document.
- Fraud – A beneficiary or another person who might gain something from the will can trick someone into incorporating terms that benefit themselves or misrepresent the document as something other than a will to get a signature.
- Vagueness – A will must have clear language that no one can misinterpret or confuse for a different meaning. The vague language might not adequately reflect the person’s wishes.
- Coercion – Someone might coerce or influence their family member to include specific terms or sign against their will.
- Undue influence – Using intimidation, threats, or violence to get a person to create or execute a will is undue influence and can invalidate the entire document.
A will lawyer in Surprise, AZ, can work with you to avoid these scenarios.
What Is a Living Will?
You can dictate your medical treatment and end-of-life care with a living will if an injury, illness, or another event incapacitates you. You should appoint a surrogate who can make decisions on your behalf if you can’t speak for yourself.
Consider possible scenarios that might prevent you from communicating your preferred care and include it in your living will, such as:
- Supplemental Feeding – Note whether you want tube feeding to receive vital nutrients if you can’t feed yourself. Also, indicate when doctors should administer the tube and for how long.
- Treatment and Medications – Some treatments, like dialysis, are necessary to remove waste from the blood. Antibiotics can fight off and prevent infections. You should mention medications you want and don’t want, especially in life-threatening situations.
- Breathing Assistance – A doctor can place you on a ventilator if you cannot breathe on your own. It can keep you alive for an extended period. State whether you want a ventilator and, if you do, when your surrogate should take you off of it.
- Donations – You can declare your preferences for donations, such as tissue and organs. Some people choose to donate their bodies to medical research.
- Post-Death Choices – You can decide whether you want an autopsy to determine the cause of your death. You can also instruct someone to handle your burial, cremation, or other arrangements.
What Happens if You Die Without a Will in Surprise, Arizona?
Your assets will pass by intestate succession if you die without a will. That means your immediate family members will receive all or part of your assets according to where they are in the line of succession. Your spouse and children will inherit your estate first. Parents, siblings, and other descendants follow.
Why You Need a Surprise, AZ, Lawyer to Handle Your Will
Creating a will seems straightforward. However, your family can encounter problems that might prevent them from a timely probate process. Any errors you make can deem the will invalid.
You should hire a Surprise, AZ, estate planning attorney to oversee various parts of your will creation, including:
- Drafting a valid last will and testament
- Naming beneficiaries
- Choosing a personal representative
- Reducing your loved one’s tax burdens
- Appointing guardians for minor children
- Helping you navigate complex family dynamics
- Updating outdated wills and other documents
- Addressing other aspects of your estate
Contact a Surprise, Arizona, Wills Attorney Today
You might worry about the cost of hiring a lawyer, but the cost of preparing a will with a form you find online is far greater if you make a mistake. Contact Pennington Law, PLLC, if you want to draft a last will and testament, living will, or another document during estate planning. Call us for a free consultation whether you’re starting a will from scratch or making updates and want legal guidance.