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Estate Planning and Advance Directives: Why You Need More Than Just a Will

While many Scottsdale residents assume that estate planning is only for older adults or those facing health problems, adults of all ages should have an estate plan in place. Estate planning varies depending upon each person’s specific needs, but everyone should consider certain documents, including a will and advance directives. You may know how important a will can be. Under Arizona law (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 14-2501), anyone who is at least 18 years old and of sound mind can make a will in the state, and it can ensure that your property is distributed according to your wishes in the event of your death. Without a will, a person is said to die “intestate,” and then that person’s possessions are passed on according to Arizona’s intestacy laws. A will is important whether you own a significant amount of valuable property or a small amount of property that has both market and sentimental value.

Yet a will is not the only essential estate planning document for everyone in Scottsdale. In addition to a will, everyone should also consider advance directives. The term “advance directives,” also known as “health care directives” in Arizona, refers to a set of state laws that allow individuals to make decisions in advance about their health care in the event that they become incapacitated and cannot make these decisions for themselves.

Everyone Should Have a Durable Health Care Power of Attorney

Everyone in Arizona, regardless of age, should have a durable health care power of attorney. As Arizona law (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 36-3221) explains, “a person who is an adult may designate another adult individual or other adult individuals to make health care decisions on that person’s behalf or to provide funeral and disposition arrangements in the event of the person’s death.” To be clear, by executing a durable health care power of attorney, you can designate another person (or people) to be your agent, and you give that agent the ability to make health care decisions for you if you become unable to make those decisions for yourself.

In addition to general health care decisions, Arizona law also allows a person to execute a mental health care power of attorney. Through this document, a Scottsdale resident can designate an agent to make mental health care decisions on his/her behalf.

While nobody expects to become physically or mentally incapacitated, it is essential to be prepared. If you are meeting with a Scottsdale estate planning lawyer to discuss the creation of a will, you should always include a conversation about a durable health care power of attorney and designating another person who can make important health care decisions for you in the event you are unable to make them for yourself.

Why You Should Also Consider a Living Will

In addition to a will and advance directives, everyone should have a living will. It is important to understand that a living will is a much different document from the type of will we discussed above.  Under Arizona law (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 36-3201), a living will is defined as “a statement written either by a person who has not written a health care power of attorney or by the principal as an attachment to a health care power of attorney and intended to guide or control the health care treatment decisions that can be made on that person’s behalf.”  In other words, a living will allows a person to create a document that specifies what kind of health care or life-saving treatment that person wants to receive in the event they become incapacitated and unable to make that type of decision for themselves. For example, a living will might specify whether you want to receive artificial breathing or artificially administered foods and fluids. While the agent you have designated through your health care power of attorney will be able to make these decisions for you if you do not have a living will, it can be much easier for that agent if you have this information already designated.

Learn More from a Scottsdale Estate Planning Attorney

Additional advance directives exist under Arizona law, and an experienced wills and trusts attorney in Scottsdale can help with your estate planning questions and needs.

When you are thinking about estate planning, you are probably considering a will through which you can leave property to your family members, friends, or charities of your choosing. Whenever you are thinking about estate planning, it is important to think carefully about health care issues and advance directives. Contact The Law Offices of Mary T. Hone today for more information about the estate planning services we can provide to clients in Arizona.

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