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What is your plan for your estate after you die or if you become medically incapacitated? That is the big question in the estate planning legal field. Every state, including Arizona, possesses its own set of laws designed to protect your rights and interests, as well as those closest to you with an interest in your estate or health.
There are plenty of tools to help you with estate planning in Arizona. Whether you live in Phoenix, Mesa or Tucson, you have access to legal estate planning resources like wills, living trusts, advance directives and more. Using LawInfo's Arizona estate planning articles, you can learn about the legal ins and outs of securing your family's future and connect with a qualified local attorney.
Planning for what may happen before you die is just as important as planning for what happens after death. You may become medically or mentally incapacitated one day and won't be able to make important health care decisions for yourself. Assigning a durable health care power of attorney to a trusted agent is one of several ways to ensure that your health care wishes are followed.
An agent with the power of attorney can make health care decisions in your stead should you become incapacitated, such as becoming comatose. The agent may only act within your best interests and your specified health care wishes.
A living trust (§14-7401 through 14-7671) is similar to a will in a few ways but has several advantages and restrictions.
Living trusts are used to transfer ownership of a settlor's assets to a trustee (or share ownership with another trustee if the settlor designates themselves as the initial trustee). The trustee is responsible for managing the property to the settlor's benefit during the settlor's lifetime. Once the settlor dies, the assets are transferred to selected beneficiaries without needing to be probated.
A living trust's advantages include privacy (whereas a will is a public document) and possible tax savings. Trustees can also continue to manage a living trust if the settlor becomes incapacitated. One disadvantage is that living trusts only manage assets. You can't make guardianship plans with a living trust like you can with a will.
An Arizona will (§14-2501 through 14-2517) is one of the surest methods of transferring your personal and real property to the right people or organizations when you die. You can also use a will to make guardianship arrangements for your minor children (18 years old and younger).
Anyone aged 18 years or older and of sound mind may make a will in Arizona. A will must be written (including holographic—or handwritten—wills) and signed by the testator (the person for whom the will is made). Holographic wills don't require witnesses' signatures but typewritten wills require signatures from two witnesses, regardless of whether the witnesses hold an interest in the will.
If an asset in your estate is already set up to transfer to a specific beneficiary by some other legal agreement such as a living trust or a transfer on death account, it won't be affected by your will. For example, if the house you shared ownership of with your domestic partner is considered community property, your domestic partner would retain ownership of the house regardless of whether you want to will it to your children.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified estate planning lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local estate planning attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.