Plan For The Road Ahead

Estate Planning FAQ

Top Ten Estate Planning Questions

(1) What is an estate plan?

An estate plan includes key documents that ensure your wishes for yourself, your family, and your assets are carried out in the event of your illness or death. Estate planning is the process of arranging for the management and distribution of your assets during your lifetime in the event that you are too sick to make your own medical or financial decisions and after your death to your loved ones. Estate plans protect your loved ones and ensure your wishes are carried out. A property drafted and funded estate plan can also avoid probate.

(2) What happens if I do not have an estate plan?

Without an estate plan, your assets may be distributed according to state laws, which may not align with your wishes. This can lead to disputes and additional costs. An estate plan is also crucial for decisions while you are still alive. If you become incapacitated without an estate plan, a probate proceeding will occur to designate your legal guardian or conservator.

Estate planning helps ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes, minimizes tax implications, and provides for your loved ones’ financial security

(3) Why should I have a trust?

Trusts can help avoid probate, maintain privacy, and provide flexibility in asset distribution, among other benefits. A will only directs how assets will be distributed, but the assets are still required to go through the probate court before they are distributed to your intended beneficiaries. A trust, if properly funded on the other hand, allows you to avoid court-supervised probate of trust assets. This provides a level of relief to your family if, for example, you become incapacitated, a successor trustee could access the trust funds to pay your medical bills and manage your assets without having to go through the court.

In addition, a trust allows you to manage and control when the beneficiaries will receive the funds. For instance, you can create a support trust that directs the trustee to pay to the beneficiary as much as is necessary for their health, education, maintenance and support. Trusts also offer a level of protection from your beneficiaries’ creditors.

(4) What assets can be included in an estate plan?

Assets commonly included in an estate plan are real estate, investments, life insurance policies, retirement accounts, vehicles, and personal belongings.

(5) Do I need an attorney for estate planning? 

While there are DIY options, consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney can help ensure your plan is legally sound and tailored to your unique circumstances. Forms that are found online are often not state specific and do not comply with Arizona law. There is also no one size fits all approach because each individual has a unique situation, no matter how simple it may seem. Our law firm has probated numerous Trusts that people have found online thinking they would avoid probate, but the Trusts have not been properly funded and therefore have been ineffective to avoid probate. Thus, it is vital to speak with an estate planning professional who knows what they are doing to make sure your family is fully protected and to avoid unnecessary costs down the road.

Hiring a probate attorney usually costs more than if you had hired an attorney initially to create the estate plan that completely avoids probate. You might save money up front, but the expenses and hassle of probate will not go away without proper legal assistance. Your family will thank you for the care and attention that you give to your Estate Plan to make things easier on them down the road.

(6) Do I need a Trust if I have a will?

A trust can complement a will by offering additional benefits, such as avoiding probate and setting up rules for your beneficiaries about how their inheritance is to be used, and enabling someone else to manage a beneficiary’s share while they are underage.

(7) How much does an estate plan cost?

Our law firm can create your estate plan for a flat fee. We offer a free initial consultation where we will discuss the flat fee exact cost for our services. The price we quote you will never change. The cost will be payable with 50% upfront and 50% at the end (when you sign the estate plan documents).

(8) What is the process?

The process will take place over three meetings.

  • Step  1: The first meeting is a free consultation where our firm will gather information about what type of estate plan will best suit your needs and we will discuss costs.
  • Step 2: In the second meeting we will review and explain a complete draft of your estate plan. At this time you will have the opportunity to discuss changes you want for the final draft.
  • Step 3: Finally, you will sign the complete version of the estate plan in the third meeting.
  • Last steps: After the signing meeting, we will record any deeds for your real property, organize the estate plan in a binder, scan a copy of the plan to a flash drive and give you both the flash drive and the original copy. Your beneficiary designations and accounts will need to be updated to reflect your plan.

(9) Can estate planning help with my small business?

Estate planning can help with business succession. When we have a client who is a business owner, we advise creating a business succession plan. Estate planning can ensure a smooth transition of business ownership to the next generation or other stakeholders like business partners.

(10) When is the best time to create an estate plan?

The best time is now! So many families are caught off-guard and are unprepared when incapacity or death occurs because no one likes to think about their own mortality. You can create an estate plan now and make changes throughout your life that best reflect your family and financial circumstances.

If you have questions about forming an estate plan or are ready to schedule your free initial consultation, please contact Windrose Law Center PLC at 602-857-9386.