The Mesa probate law firm of Joseph M. Udall provides estate planning services uniquely tailored to your specific needs. Estate planning involves decisions about how property is distributed after death as well as important issues which may occur during your lifetime. Many different types of documents may be drafted, according to your particular wishes.
A will is the traditional tool used most often to pass assets to intended beneficiaries upon death of the will-maker (testator). A legal will in Mesa or anywhere in Arizona must conform to specific statutory requirements in order to be valid. A will whose validity is contested can get tied up in court in a lengthy and time-consuming process. A well-drafted document by a competent and experienced Mesa wills lawyer is your best defense against later will contests.
A living trust is a popular way to transfer assets outside of a will. In a living trust, the assets are transferred to the trust by the person creating the trust (the "trustor") during the trustor's lifetime. Legal title passes to a trustee, who manages the assets for the benefit of the beneficiaries. During the trustor's lifetime, the trustor is usually both the trustee and the beneficiary of the trust, allowing the trustor to control the assets in the trust and use the assets in the trust for the trustor's benefit. Upon the death of the trustor, the successor trustee of the trust transfers the assets to the beneficiaries in the manner specified in the trust. Trusts can be helpful in minimizing the tax consequences of asset transfer.
Like a will, a properly-drafted trust may be revoked before death if circumstances or desires of the trustor change. However, unlike a will, a properly drafted and funded trust allows the assets in the trust to avoid probate, and unlike a will, which has no legal effect until you pass away, a trust provides a plan for the management of the trust's assets in case you become incapacitated.
Probate is a court-supervised process by which the estate of a deceased is settled, distributing assets according to the terms of a will or by law, and paying debts or taxes owed by the estate. Mesa probate can be an expensive and time-consuming process, depending upon the size and complexity of the estate. With careful planning, however, probate can be minimized or avoided altogether.
The living trust is one vehicle for transferring assets which avoids probate, since the assets are already transferred during the lifetime of the trustor. Other devices which transfer assets without probate include insurance policies and retirement benefits plans with named surviving beneficiaries. Jointly-titled property or jointly-held bank accounts can also pass to the co-owner without the need for probate, however there are potential tax and legal liability consequences to placing someone on the title to your assets, therefore you should consult with an experienced estate planning attorney before changing title to your assets.
Planning for Incapacity
A well-prepared estate plan considers not only what will happen in the event of a death, but also what will happen in the event you become incapacitated. As mentioned previously, a living trust provides a plan for incapacity, but only with respect to the assets held in the trust. The issue of incapacity is usually addressed by preparing additional estate planning documents, such as the following:
- Durable Financial Power of Attorney: A durable financial power of attorney enables you to appoint someone to make financial decision on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
- Durable Health Care Power of Attorney: This document allows you to appoint someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
- Durable Mental Health Care Power of Attorney: This document allows you to appoint someone to make mental health care decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
- Living Will: This document allows you to specify your wishes with respect to end-of-life care, such as life support.
The wide variety of options available in estate planning makes it incumbent upon you to seek experienced legal advice in planning your estate.
If you require legal assistance with wills and probate in Mesa, the East Valley, or anywhere in Arizona, call the Law Firm of Joseph M. Udall or contact us via e-mail.
The Law Firm of Joseph M. Udall, PLC, proudly serves the East Valley, Metro Phoenix, and clients in the entire State of Arizona, including the following cities: Mesa, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Gilbert, Tempe, Chandler, Apache Junction, Queen Creek, Maricopa, Casa Grande, Glendale, Avondale, Surprise, Flagstaff, Payson, Globe, Miami, Tucson, and Showlow.