Yes, you really need a Will
If the saying by Benjamin Franklin holds any truth that, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, then certainly taking time to plan your estate can eliminate questions about what will happen to your property, assets, or business, when you die.
However, many people have the mistaken notion that if they do nothing, that their estate (i.e., money, accounts, vehicle, house, etc.) will simply pass to their loved ones after they die. In some instances this may be true as Arizona intestacy law dictates who your heirs are and who has the priority to manage your estate if you die without a Will. But, relying on laws that act as a default may not be in your best interest.
A better solution would be to consider using a last Will and Testament. A Will is a legal document, which in Arizona must be in writing (no oral Wills), signed by the person making the Will (the Testator), and witnessed by two persons. Only a person who is 18 years or older and of sound mind can make a Will.
With this in mind, a Will can direct who will receive your assets when you die, after the payment of debts, taxes, and administrative expenses. Moreover, a Will helps one to name who will serve as the Personal Representative (formerly known as an “Executor”) of your estate. Additional provisions might include (1) establishing a testamentary trust, (2) a Special Needs trust, (3) directing who will be the guardian of a minor child, (4) and finally your post-mortem directive as whether you will be buried or cremated.
Wills only work through Probate
A Will by definition only works through probate – this means that a Will has no force, validity, or effect outside of a probate administration. Although probate will be discussed in another article, suffice it to say that a probate administration can be complex, or quite simple depending on the composition of the estate assets, creditors, and whether all heirs can agree.
Alternatives to Wills
In some cases, it is better to plan to avoid probate which can be accomplished in a variety of ways. Some of the more popular ways are with joint accounts, “pay-on-death” designations, contracts for life insurance, retirement accounts, or using a living trust. In addition, if there is a concern about keeping your estate “private” and not subject to family members who you may not want to see the assets you owned at death, then a non-probate transfer can be used to maximize your privacy. These options should always be considered when sitting down to write an estate plan.
At any rate, if you wish to have greater control over how your property is passed onto the next generation, then take the time to begin your estate plan today!
IMPORTANT: Neither this blog article nor any information on this website shall be construed as the offering or rendering of any legal advice and does not establish an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Mesch Clark Rothschild (“MCR”) or any attorney at MCR. You should consult with an attorney if you have a specific question regarding your legal issues.