Frequently Asked Questions About Estate Planning

Answers you can trust from experienced attorneys

Estate planning is a complex and often confusing process, one that many people put off or ignore. We understand how difficult it is, and we're here to help. At Brown, Naegle, Crider & Jensen LLC, our estate planning lawyers have extensive experience helping families move through this process, and we'd like to share what we know with you.

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Why do I need an estate plan?

Everyone has an estate, whether they know it or not. Whether your assets are extensive or limited, whether you have children or not, you need a plan to determine what will happen to your money and property after your passing.

If you don't have a plan, your estates could be tied up in probate court for a long time after your passing. There could be serious arguments and even legal battles between members of your family - which not only could deplete the assets in your estate, but also contribute to divisions and permanently damage relationships. Creating an estate plan is your opportunity to stop a crisis before it begins, and working with an experienced attorney will help.

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What is a Last Will and Testament?

The foundation of your estate plan, your Last Will and Testament determines what will happen to your money and property after you pass away. You will designate a personal representative, also known as an executor, to manage your affairs and distribute your assets to your heirs. Your Last Will and Testament can be used to establish a Trust, and can also appoint a guardian for surviving minor children, if any.

The process of creating a Last Will and Testament is quite intricate and numerous formalities have to be followed. Working with an experienced estate planning attorney can help to ensure that your Will will be accepted as valid by the probate court and shield it against being contested by interested parties in the future.

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What is a Trust?

A Trust is a financial entity that safeguards some of your assets for the benefit of particular people, known as beneficiaries. You can establish a Trust during your life or upon your death with your Last Will and Testament. A Trust is managed by a trustee, a person who is entrusted with the responsibility to steward the Trust assets in accordance with the Trust documents. There are many types of Trusts, and an attorney can help you understand what type of Trust is best for you and your family.

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What is a Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney is a legal document that empowers another person to make decisions on your behalf. With respect to estate planning, we use a Power of Attorney to designate someone to make decisions if you are incapacitated due to illness, in a vegetative state or in an irreversible coma. There are two basic types of Power of Attorney: a general Power of Attorney to manage your finances, and a Health Care Power of Attorney to manage your medical decisions. You need not name the same person for each responsibility.

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What is a Living Will?

A Living Will is a document that establishes your wishes for medical treatment if you are permanently incapacitated or in a vegetative state. If you have a Health Care Power of Attorney in addition to a Living Will, your Living Will acts as a guide for your Power of Attorney's decisions.

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Can I name the same person for multiple responsibilities?

You can, but you are not obligated to. For example, you could name the same person as your Personal Representative and Trustee, or you could name two different people. Likewise, you can have a single Power of Attorney who will handle both financial and medical decisions, or you can name separate people for each of those responsibilities. An attorney can advise you as to the best course of action for each of your estate planning responsibilities.

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Can I name multiple people for the same responsibility?

Technically you can, but we do not recommend this in most cases. If you have, for example, two Personal Representatives to manage your estate, and they disagree on a decision, they may have to go to court to resolve the dispute. Having multiple people share a responsibility defeats the purpose of naming a decision-maker to manage your affairs.

What we do recommend is naming at least one alternate choice for each estate planning responsibility. That way, you will still have someone you trust in each role if your first choice predeceases you, or if he or she is otherwise unable or unwilling to meet the responsibilities of the position.

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How can an attorney help me with my estate plan?

Your estate plan needs to be ironclad in order to hold up in probate court and take care of your family's needs. An attorney can help you make sure each of your estate planning documents is properly prepared and will be deemed valid by the probate court. This can avoid expensive and costly litigation for your heirs and ensure that your assets will be distributed according to your wishes.

Many people aren't sure exactly what they want from their estate plan. An estate planning attorney can go over your assets, discuss your family's situation with you, and work to create an estate plan that meets your needs within your means. Working with an experienced lawyer is the best option to avert a potentially serious crisis for your family before it happens.

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Mesa
3850 E Baseline Rd Suite 111
Mesa, AZ 85206
local phone: (480) 378-9000