No matter how large or small it may be, everyone has an estate. It’s made up of everything you own; your car, your home, checking and savings accounts, and even personal possessions. Your estate is basically your net worth, including your assets and debts. Estate plans are put in place to determine what happens to your estate after you die. To ensure your wishes are carried out, it’s important to provide instructions stating whom you want to receive your estate, what you want them to receive, and when they are to receive it. Estate planning covers these items and much more.
Most people are familiar with a will. It’s the beginnings of an estate plan, and it provides your instructions for carrying out your wishes, but it has limitations. Without a comprehensive plan, any assets in your name must go through your state’s probate process before they can be distributed to your heirs. The process can become expensive with legal fees, executor fees, and court costs and can take anywhere from nine months to two years. Basically, the court has much more control over what happens with your estate if you just have a will. By including more elements in your estate plan, you can:
- Name a guardian for your minor children.
- Include instructions for your care if you become disabled.
- Include life insurance to provide for your family at your death, disability income insurance to replace your income if you cannot work due to illness or injury, and long-term care insurance to help pay for your care in case of an extended illness or injury.
- Provide for the transfer of your business at your retirement, disability, or death.
- Minimize taxes and court costs associated with passing on an estate.
Speaking with an experienced estate attorney can help you develop a comprehensive estate plan, which includes trusts. A revocable living trust is a popular tool among families and professionals, because it can avoid probate costs, prevent court control of assets and bring all of your assets together into one plan. A living trust also provides privacy, is valid in Arizona and every other state, and can be changed by you at any time.
While it may not always be a comfortable topic of conversation, taking care of what matters to you and your family is important, especially as your estate changes and grows. If it’s time to put your ducks in a row, talk to an experienced estate attorney today.