Introduction to Phoenix Estate Planning Attorneys Explain Answers to Common Estate Planning Questions
Although you may know you need to create an estate plan, many people find doing so to be a daunting task. What should an estate plan consist of? How much does it cost to create a plan? Who needs to know about your estate plan? These questions make the estate planning process appear more complicated than it needs to be and can lead to individuals putting off taking care of this important task. As the answers to the following common estate planning questions show, planning for how your affairs will be handled after your death need not be an onerous task.
Do I need a will or a trust?
Every estate plan will consist of at least a will (when a living trust is created, a “pour-over” will is also created so that any assets or property the decedent owns will be transferred to the trust upon death), but whether you need a trust is a personal choice. If you are concerned about estate taxes, want to avoid the probate process, or want the details of your assets to remain private, a trust may be the correct option for you.
I don’t have many assets. Do I need an estate plan?
An estate plan can be beneficial for individuals regardless of the amount of property or assets they have. Aside from describing how property should be distributed, an estate plan can tell a court who you want to act as guardian for your child if you and the child’s other parent are deceased. A thorough estate plan will also include instructions describing the type of medical care you wish to receive if you are unconscious and who should make personal and financial decisions if you are unable to do so yourself. For more information contact an experienced Phoenix estate lawyer.
Who needs to know that I have created an estate plan?
Once you have created an estate plan, you should share this fact with your family, any beneficiaries you designated in your plan, and any executor(s) and representatives named in the estate plan. While you need not the specifics of your plan if you do not desire to do so, at the very least these individuals should know:
- That you created an estate plan;
- What document(s) your estate plan consists of;
- Each individual’s role in your estate plan;
- Where the original estate planning documents are located;
- The name of the attorney or law firm that helped you prepare the estate plan (if you did not prepare the estate plan yourself).
What do testamentary letters do?
At the time you are named as the executor or personal representative of a decedent’s estate, the court will give you testamentary letters. These letters are, essentially, directives from the court that give you the power to act on behalf of the decedent in winding up his or her affairs. With these letters, you should be able to access lockboxes owned by the decedent, speak to banks, financial institutions, creditors, and debtors of the decedent, and take all reasonable and necessary actions to resolve the decedent’s estate.
While there are many resources available designed to help individuals understand how to create an effective and comprehensive estate plan, individuals should be careful about any advice or instructions they receive and always check with their state’s laws. Furthermore, crafting an estate plan is a personal task that must account for each person’s unique circumstances: an estate plan created for a widower with no children should look different than an estate plan created for a young married woman with two minor children. The attorneys at Ariano and Associates is on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer your questions.