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Key Steps in Creating an Estate Plan

Making out a will and other estate planning documents may seem intimidating. The process reminds us of our own mortality. Good estate plans, however, are not merely about disposing of your property after death but also about protecting you and your property in case of a serious disability.

Even if you don’t have significant assets, creating an estate plan ensures you have a say in the distribution of your assets and simplifies the probate process for your loved ones. Without a will, your assets are divided based on Arizona law, regardless of the wishes of you or your family. In addition to a will, an estate plan can include a trust, a medical care directive and a financial power of attorney.

Breaking estate planning into steps can help you decide what works best for your situation.

  • Inventory your assets — Take stock of all your property, including bank accounts, investment accounts, real estate and other things of value. Getting a full picture of what you own can help you decide how each asset will be managed and distributed.
  • Designate beneficiaries — Certain types of assets can automatically pass to a named beneficiary upon your death. Make sure you’ve included at least one beneficiary on all of your financial accounts. You can also change ownership of real estate by executing a beneficiary deed, which transfers the property to a specified person upon your death. An asset that passes directly to a beneficiary does not need to go through probate.
  • Protect your children — If you have children under the age of 18, make sure you have adequate life insurance to provide for their upkeep if you were to die or become disabled. Also decide on who might serve as the children’s guardian if their other parent is unable to care for them. If you’ve remarried, for example, estate planning can protect and provide for children from previous marriages and relationships.
  • Set out directions for managing your assets — Decide whether you want a trust, by which you hold your assets during your lifetime and pass them on to named beneficiaries upon your death. You should also make a will, which can control the distribution of assets not included in the trust.
  • Create a medical care directive — This will help your loved ones honor your wishes if you’re seriously injured or ill and unable to make your own medical choices.
  • Assign a power of attorney — This person will manage and control your assets if you become disabled. Select someone you trust who will focus on your best interests. You can decide the extent of the power you give to this person.

An experienced attorney can assist you in designing or revising an estate plan that does the most to protect your assets and accomplish your objectives.

Jeffrey P. Hall assists people throughout the Phoenix metropolitan area with developing efficient estate plans. To schedule a consultation, call our office at {PHONE} or contact us online.