Do You Want the State of Arizona to Write Your Will?
Maybe you can’t take it with you, but you can decide who benefits from the estate you leave behind – unless you die without a will. In that case, Arizona law requires that a court-appointed personal representative handle your estate. Do you really want a stranger to have that kind of power?
Most people underestimate the size of their estates, forgetting about pensions, profit sharing plans, life insurance and other items of value. Even if estate taxes are not a worry, you may need a will to provide for prompt and orderly distribution of your assets.
Most people fail to make a will because they don’t want to think about their own death. But even if you ignore death, it will not ignore you. To prepare a will consider the following points:
Select a qualified attorney: Choose an attorney with whom you feel comfortable, who is competent, and who explains things clearly.
Make a complete list of all your assets: A complete list of your assets, and names and addresses of your beneficiaries, will save time. Lawyers charge by the hour. The more organized you are, the less time it will take the lawyer. Don’t list every table and lamp, but do itemize valuables such as jewelry or art. Check with your employer about employee insurance, pensions and so on.
Determine property ownership: Copy ownership information from stock certificates, deeds or titles to clarify community property from joint tenancy property. If you have any questions, take the documents – or copies – to the lawyer.
List your liabilities: Include mortgages, notes, personal debt and all related information.
List your heirs: List any specific items you wish to go to a specific heir. Include complete names and addresses of all possible heirs whether or not you want them to receive anything.
Consider the implications of your decisions: If you have children, remember that minor children might require more money than older children; or a handicapped child may require a trust, and a guardian or conservator. You may want to deny an irresponsible child access to principal amounts, but give older children a lump sum amount. Consider if you want your child’s spouse to have access to his or her inheritance. Think about the implications of your decisions. If you are married, how do you wish to provide for your surviving spouse during his or her lifetime? Depending on the extent of your assets, your attorney may recommend one or more types of trusts. In setting your goals, do not worry about estate tax consequences. That is your lawyer’s job. He or she may be able to point out ways to save taxes while implementing your wishes. Remember, be specific!
Write everything down: It is easy to forget a question if you don’t write it down.
Consider your personal representative carefully: A personal representative (previously called an executor/executrix) takes care of your estate. Family members may or may not be the best choice to handle your estate. Sometimes, a more objective outsider might be a better choice. You should also select an alternate.
If you have a will, review it periodically: Times change. If your will is outdated, it might be worse than no will at all.
Do it now: While putting off preparing your will could mean you don’t have to worry about it, think of the implications of your survivors. Most people work very hard for what they have. Do you want the State of Arizona to dispose of your assets? Call the Estate Planning attorneys at Mesch Clark Rothschild at (520) 624-8886.