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Documents you may want to incorporate into your estate plan

Executing an estate plan is a good decision for those who wish to protect their assets and provide for their loved ones. There are no requirements for what exact documents you must include in your plan. In fact, the process of planning an estate may range from highly complex to simple. You can customize your plan to fit your own needs and ultimate goals regarding numerous issues, including your own medical care, financial decisions, special needs for a child or grandchild, property, inheritance or business issues.

There are many documents that can help you accomplish your estate planning goals. Before you plan your estate, it helps to learn more about such documents so you can choose the ones that serve the best purpose in your particular circumstances. Arizona, like all other states, has estate and probate regulations. It's always a good idea to seek clarification of any laws or rules that may affect your estate planning decisions.

How long has it been since you reviewed your estate plan?

Having an estate plan is a smart step, no matter your income level, the size of your estate or the value of the assets you have. However, simply having plans in place may not be enough to protect your interests. It is also critical to review and update plans as needed every few years. 

As Arizona readers know, one of the biggest estate planning mistakes a person can make is to fail to have an estate plan. This leads to complications for loved ones and other issues with the estate in the future. Another grave mistake is to fail to update the plan after significant life events or after several years have passed.

Sibling scrutiny can make an executor's job more difficult

As the executor of your parent's estate, you likely already know that you have a lot of work cut out for you. What may weigh heavily on your mind is the likelihood that your siblings will cause conflict during the probate proceedings. Certainly, sibling rivalry can play a considerable role in estate disputes, and you may even find yourself having to deal with litigation.

Of course, your main goal will likely be to avoid litigation if at all possible. Still, you may want to prepare yourself in case avoidance is not feasible. Understanding some reasons for conflict and ways you could work toward a smooth process as executor may prove useful to you.

Mistakes can greatly impact the probate process

Many estates go through probate after a loved one passes away. If the decedent created an estate plan, he or she likely appointed someone to take on the role of executor of the estate. This person will have the responsibility of settling the final affairs and closing the estate.

If your loved one appointed you to this position, you need to understand the role you will take on. A number of facets exist when it comes to acting as executor, and unfortunately, even a seemingly minor error on your part could cause significant consequences that could negatively impact the probate proceedings.

4 reasons for probate litigation

The passing of your loved one may have left you feeling shocked. You may have felt as if your family member was here one minute and gone the next, and that scenario can often be the case. Still, you know that even though he or she has passed away, a great many things need to happen to settle the estate's final affairs.

When it comes to probate, the chances of conflict are often considerable. Individuals may choose to challenge a will or otherwise fight about an aspect of the estate, and they will need to settle these issues before the estate can completely close. Whether you hold the position of executor and need to act on behalf of the estate or simply feel that you need to bring attention to a possible problem, estate conflicts can take time to handle.

Do you really need a lawyer to help with your estate planning?

In an age of technology and the internet where information is literally at your fingertips, you may wonder why you couldn't just look up how to do a will and get it done. After all, everyone keeps telling you that you need a will, so can't you just go onto the internet, find a form and fill it out?

Not really. Well, you could do that, but more than likely, it won't comply with Arizona law, and that could make it invalid upon your death. In addition, a will may not be enough to protect your assets or to distribute them in the way you wish to do so. Then there is the question of powers of attorney and other documents that you may need that protect you in the event you become incapacitated.

What happens to debts during probate?

You may be one of the many in Arizona named to handle the administrative matters related to a deceased loved one's estate. If the court appointed you, it is likely because your loved one did not create an estate plan. This may mean you have a lot of work ahead of you as you see your loved one's estate through the process of probate.

Probate is a necessary legal process for estates that do not have trusts or other alternate plans in place. The purpose is to tie up the loose ends of your loved one's material life, distribute the remaining assets and close the estate. One important loose end you will be dealing with is the debt your loved one left behind.

Do you anticipate family conflict during probate?

Every family has its problems. Whether there is one sibling who seems like the black sheep or there are issues with stepparents, no family is perfect. You may know this fact firsthand from the many spats you have endured with various family members throughout the years, and now that a loved one has passed and you face the duty of being an executor, you may worry about even more serious disputes.

Unfortunately, conflict during the probate process is not unusual. In some cases, challenges to wills may be warranted when someone unjustly took advantage of a vulnerable person. However, the possibility also exists that some people may make claims simply due to misunderstandings or attempts to obtain assets to which they are not entitled. Still, as executor, you will have to handle any claims made against the estate.

Why are you putting off making your estate plan?

You may procrastinate many things you know you must do, such as starting a diet, going to the doctor or catching up with old friends. There are many reasons why you might put off doing your taxes. It is time-consuming, confusing and the outcome may cost you money. Postponing important activities means increasing the risk that things will go badly or that you will miss your opportunity altogether and it will be too late to complete the task.

Estate planning is like that too. Fewer than 50 percent of adults have a plan in place for the end of their lives, and you may be among them. Sure, you have a lot of good reasons, and you are not alone. Your reasons are likely similar to those of most people in Arizona who still haven't made their plans. However, if something should happen to you before you create an estate plan, you may leave behind confusion and conflict for your family to suffer through.

Do you think your estate plan needs only a will? Think again.

Because estate plans hold such importance, you may find yourself among the many people who fear making mistakes with these plans. Unfortunately, estate planning errors are not uncommon, but with the right information and assistance, you could greatly cut down on the chances of your plans having any major mistakes.

If you have not yet begun the planning process, you may think that creating a will is a good place to start. You are not incorrect in this notion, but you may want to remember that relying solely on a will could be an estate planning mistake in itself. Depending on the exact details of your estate, you may need to utilize additional tools.

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The Law Offices of Mary T. Hone, PLLC
10505 N. 69th Street, Suite 1400
Scottsdale, AZ 85253

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