There are many reasons why people put off estate planning. They are single, they are too young, they do not have any children, they don’t think they have enough money or personal items to bother, or they believe that they don’t have the time to dedicate to the planning process.
While each of these reasons seem valid, they are exactly why a person needs to make the time to set up an estate plan.
Fortunately, our Arizona estate planning team knows how to ease you through the planning process so that you can check that box off your “ways to look out for my future self” list.
You won’t regret reaching out to learn more. Until then, find out a few basics about estate planning and why it should be a priority for you and your loved ones.
What Is Estate Planning?
If you are not familiar with estate planning, it refers to the process of arranging and protecting your assets, properties, and personal belongings so that they are distributed according to your wishes after your death or incapacitation.
Without a plan, your surviving family members / beneficiaries can be left with surprising challenges that they may not be prepared to handle.
Here is how an estate plan may help protect you, your family, and other beneficiaries:
- Ensure that your assets go to the correct beneficiaries. A beneficiary is someone who will inherit assets from you, such as a person, nonprofit, or other entity. Estate planning allows you to specify how you want to divide your assets and assign who you want to inherit those assets after you pass away. Without a proper estate plan in place, your assets may be distributed according to state law, which may not align with your wishes.
- Protect your beneficiaries. An estate plan can help you protect your beneficiaries’ inheritance from creditors, lawsuits, or divorces. It can also protect your assets and ensure they are used for the intended purposes.
- Avoid probate. Probate is a court-supervised process of distributing a deceased person’s assets. Probate can be lengthy, expensive, and public. Estate planning can help you avoid probate and ensure your assets are distributed more efficiently.
- Minimize taxes. Estate planning can help you minimize the taxes your estate and beneficiaries may have to pay. With proper planning, you can transfer assets to your beneficiaries in a tax-efficient manner.
- Protect you if you’re incapacitated. Let’s face it–none of us want to ever be in a position where we can no longer communicate our wants/needs because of physical or neurological limitations. With an estate plan in place, you can gain peace of mind knowing that you’ve crossed the t’s and dotted the i’s so that proper documents are in place. Those documents include healthcare directives and naming a power of attorney so that a designated person that you trust can make decisions on your behalf in case you become incapacitated.
Our estate planning team can provide even more insight on the various legal and wealth-management benefits. Take the next step to securing your future by completing the short form on this page to connect with an estate planning attorney.
Top Three Estate Planning Items
Now that you have a general idea of how an estate plan can benefit you, you’ll find it useful to know a few different items that are part of a solid estate plan. Also, notice the overlap between the benefits and the following essential items.
- A trust: A trust is a legal arrangement in which you transfer ownership of your assets to a trustee (usually yourself), who then manages and distributes them according to your wishes. A trust can provide certain tax benefits and can help to avoid probate, which is the legal process of settling an estate.
- Designated beneficiaries: You can name beneficiaries for certain assets, such as life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and bank accounts. By doing so, these assets can be transferred directly to the beneficiaries without going through probate. It’s important to note that a beneficiary can be a person, a charity, a trust, or your estate. You should also know that some states or the provider of a benefit policy may place restrictions on who can be named a beneficiary.
- An established durable power of attorney: A power of attorney is a legal document that allows someone to make financial and legal decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. That includes making sure that your healthcare directive is followed regarding instructions for life-sustaining treatment, organ donation, and other important medical decisions.
An experienced estate planning attorney can help you create a plan that meets your individual needs and goals. They can also help lessen any confusion pertaining to Arizona laws and clarify why you need certain documents, as well as a list of personal accounts and passwords.
How to Choose an Estate Planning Attorney
We know that the thought of creating, or even modifying, an estate plan can seem like a monumental task. That is why we suggest that you follow these steps when choosing an estate planning attorney:
- Assess your needs: Before you begin searching for an estate planning attorney, it’s important to evaluate your needs and determine what you want to achieve with your estate plan. This could include creating a will, establishing a trust, planning for taxes, or addressing long-term care issues.
- Look for experience: When selecting an estate planning attorney, it’s important to look for someone with experience in local estate planning law. You want an attorney who has handled similar cases and has a track record of success.
- Check credentials: Verify that the attorney is licensed to practice law in your state and has no disciplinary actions or complaints filed against them. Look for certifications in estate planning or related fields.
- Seek referrals: Ask friends, family members, or colleagues for recommendations. Word-of-mouth referrals can be helpful in identifying attorneys who have provided quality service to others.
- Schedule a consultation: Meet with potential attorneys to discuss your needs and their experience. Ask questions about their approach to estate planning, their fees, and how they will communicate with you throughout the process.
- Review fees: Understand the attorney’s fee structure and what is included in their fees. Some attorneys charge hourly rates, while others charge flat fees for specific services.
- Consider compatibility: Select an attorney with whom you feel comfortable communicating and who listens to your concerns. You want an attorney who will work with you to create a personalized estate plan that meets your needs.
Contact an Estate Planning Attorney Now
At Lerner and Rowe, we want to help ease the burdens of you and your loved ones now and in the future. That is why we strongly encourage you to create a more peaceful mindset about your future by scheduling a complimentary Arizona estate planning consultation today.