Countless surveys reveal that the majority of Americans do not have all of the necessary estate planning documents in place.  In fact, most people don’t have any estate planning documents at all.  One of the big reasons for this is because dying or becoming incapacitated is is the bottom of everyone’s to-do list.  Many people procrastinate, thinking that they will always have time to create an estate plan in the future.

However, as we’ve all probably seen in our own lives, life can change in an instant.  And when it does, procrastination can have some very negative consequences.  By not creating an estate plan, you are doing a great disservice to your loved ones that survive you. This means that you never named a guardian for minor children or created a plan for how your assets are to be distributed.  This can cause emotional distress for your loved ones and possibly cause family in-fighting.  It also means that you never planned for your incapacity, so the person who makes decisions on your behalf when you are unable may not be the person you would have picked.  Creating an estate plan while you are able solves these problems.

When you do sit down with an estate planning lawyer, your lawyer may talk to you about creating a revocable living trust.  Trusts are very popular because if properly funded, they allow property to transfer outside of probate.  They also allow you to create a custom distribution plan for heirs that may delay distribution of assets to young beneficiaries or provide asset protection to funds left in trust for beneficiaries.

Probate can be an expensive and time consuming process, and we have found most of our clients would prefer to avoid it.  A big negative about probate is that your heirs won’t receive their inheritance until the estate has settled.  This means that your heirs could wait months – even years in contested cases – to receive any of their inheritance.  Read more about Arizona probate.

Once again, because dying or becoming incapacitated is at the bottom of everyone’s to-do list, many people who do create estate plans place their estate plan in a drawer or on a shelf and simply forget about them.  However, your life will change over time.  Perhaps some of the fiduciaries you named in your estate plan have moved or passed away.  Perhaps your children are older and a different distribution plan is in order.  You could have additions to your family, your financial situation could improve, or you may experience a change in marital status.  All of these are good times to talk to your estate planning lawyer about updating your estate plan.  In addition, the constantly changing tax laws may create the opportunity to make changes to your trust to save taxes.

Estate planning is not a single act.  It is an ongoing process.  You should have your entire estate plan, including your trust, reviewed by an estate planning attorney every five years – even if you don’t think anything needs to be changed.  Some documents like a Durable Power of Attorney are very sensitive and some institutions will not accept them if they are too old (we’ve heard three years old max).  If you know your trust or other estate planning documents need to be updated, you should take action sooner than later and call your estate planning attorney.  He or she can recommend the necessary changes and give you peace of mind that you have ensured the well-being of those who matter most.

Whether you already have an estate plan or are just getting started, the Neal Law Firm is here to help.  We offer a variety of flat fee estate plans designed to fit within your budget and provide your family with the security you want.  Call Neal Law Firm to speak with Arizona estate planning lawyer today at 480-699-7992 to learn more about our estate plans and to get started on creating your legacy.