Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q.  Do I need an attorney to draft a will?

A.  The State Bar of Arizona recommends that only an attorney draft a will.  Moreover, given the options available, the various tax implications and complex legal requirements behind drafting a valid will, it is best to utilize the services of a lawyer who is experienced in all facets of estate planning and will-drafting.

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Q.  How can I avoid probate?

A.  Probate is the process by which a court oversees the administration of a deceased person’s estate, including payment of any debts and taxes owed by the deceased and distribution of the balance of the estate.  Probate may occur even if there is no will; if the decedent died without a will, the decedent is said to have died “intestate”, and the decedent’s estate will be distributed to the decedent’s heirs as defined by the Arizona’s laws regarding intestate succession.  Probate is often criticized as a costly and time-consuming process, and since probate matters are public record, lack of privacy is also cited as a concern by many people.

Certain small estates may avoid probate, and assets which are titled in a certain manner, such as in joint tenancy with a right of survivorship, also avoid probate.  Some assets, such as life insurance policies and retirement accounts, are contractual in nature and are controlled by the beneficiary designation without the need for probate.  A properly prepared and funded living trust also allows you to avoid probate, and also provides a plan in the event you become incapacitated. For further information, see our estate planning page.

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Q.  Should I form a corporation or an LLC?

A.  Traditionally, the primary benefit of a corporation is that it provides protection for its officers from personal liability for the corporation’s debts.  However, corporate officers are subject to double taxation, since the corporation must pay taxes, and then the officers must again pay taxes on the salary they draw from the corporation, unless the corporation is an S corporation, as discussed on our business law page.

A limited liability company (LLC) offers the liability protection of a corporation with the simplified tax structure of a partnership.  Although an LLC often seems more attractive, there are issues of management and control and other reasons why a corporation may be the better option.  An experienced business lawyer can advise you on the structure that is most appropriate for your business.

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Q.  I run a small business.  Why do I need a lawyer?

A.  Legal problems can arise in a business of any size.  Given the multitude of contracts and agreements you are required to execute in nearly every aspect of your business, it is reasonable to expect that legal disputes will arise from time to time.  As a small business owner, a serious dispute can cripple your operations.  It is imperative that you have access to a skilled attorney who is familiar with your business and can help you resolve problems quickly and effectively.

If you have further questions regarding how an attorney may be of help with your estate planning or general business needs, contact The Law Firm of Joseph M. Udall, PLC today for a free phone consultation.

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