Preparing Your Last Will and Testament
One of the most central documents in planning your estate is a last will and testament. Hollywood has contributed to strong misconceptions about the scope of a will’s powers, causing the public to both under- and overestimate what the document can do. In the simplest terms, a last will and testament dictates who will be in charge of settling your final affairs, how your estate will be distributed, and who will receive what assets. While it is a straightforward document, a will attorney can help you understand the nuances, allowing you to customize your will to reflect your final wishes.
Among the powers of a will is naming the important figures in your estate. This includes beneficiaries such as loved ones or institutions who will receive property or assets; guardians for minor children or incapacitated adults; and the executor (in Arizona, called the personal representative) who will represent you in distributing the estate. Your will can also outline your funeral and burial arrangements, so you get the send-off you want and your family only needs to enact plans already in place.
What Can a Will Do?
Your last will and testament empowers a personal representative who will “execute” your estate. This person settles your debts and follows your instructions to distribute your property to your named beneficiaries. The personal representative can also determine how and to whom to distribute assets not specifically named in the will. This person is therefore someone you trust to both honor your wishes in word and in spirit, and take decisive action to put those wishes into effect.
For Arizona residents, preparing a thorough will is also crucial to avoid probate complications. The probate process verifies a will is legitimate. Without clear instructions, wills can be contested, probate can hold onto assets, and loved ones can be delayed from receiving what you want them to have.
Unlike the film and TV depictions, simply writing down your wishes and hiding your will somewhere in your home is not a legitimate estate plan. In fact, this will likely cause more problems. Consulting a will attorney ensures your final wishes are legally valid, witnessed, and notarized, with copies sent to the necessary parties and stored securely. A will is no good if no one knows about it, it can’t be found, and it isn’t legal.
What Happens If I Don’t Leave a Will?
Dying without leaving behind a final will is called dying “intestate.” Intestacy leaves the distribution of your assets and possessions up to Arizona’s inheritance laws. If you’re thinking that isn’t so bad, remember that this not only means you can’t leave specific possessions to certain loved ones, but can also tie up the estate in the courts If there are disagreeable family dynamics at play.
In short, intestacy may result in time lost, money spent, and stress, confusion, and conflict for your family. By taking the practical step of creating a clear last will and testament, you secure peace of mind for your loved ones. Death is inherently a time of upheaval. You don’t want to leave your family even more disoriented by neglecting this pivotal document.
Our Arizona Will Attorneys Honor Your Wishes
At Dyer, Bregman & Ferris, PLLC, we work side-by-side with you to draft a last will and testament that reflects your life, so you’re properly honored in death. In addition to helping you name your personal representative, provide for your minor children, and outline your funeral and burial arrangements through your will, our attorneys offer other estate planning services. By establishing trusts and avoiding or streamlining probate, you can prepare a comprehensive estate plan that goes beyond a will, further customizing your wishes, and transferring wealth and property to your desired beneficiaries more easily. We want to honor your wishes as thoroughly as possible. Ask about our other estate planning options today.