Fifteen Best Estate Planning Tips

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  1. If you have property, you need to make a Will and/or a Trust.

  2. If you are married, you and your spouse should each have a separate will that has been signed, witnessed and notarized, not just one joint will.

  3. Your will provides for disposition of your property to the people you love at your death and may also provide for charitable donations. If properly drafted, it also makes probate easier in a number of ways and specifies who will be in charge of your estate.

  4. A trust is a little more expensive than a will, but will allow you to avoid the cost of probate since it can be administered without court approval. When a trust is prepared, we also prepare pour-over wills so that any property not in the trust will be treated as if it was in the trust at your death.

  5. A trust also provides for your care prior to your death if you become disabled, physically or mentally.

  6. There are hundreds of kinds of trusts. Some provide for restrictions on amendment after the death of the spouse, to protect the inheritance of your children. Others do not. Talk to us about the kind of trust you want.

  7. A simple probate avoidance trust will save the cost of probate and may also provide tax advantages.

  8. We can prepare trusts for unmarried partners (significant others). These trusts can help protect the property of each partner, and its character as community or separate, so that it goes to the proper heirs.

  9. You can have more than one will or trust. This is especially important if you own property in another state or another country.

  10. Trusts can help to avoid inheritance (death) tax. The United States government assesses these taxes. These taxes are optional. You can have a trust to avoid them or, if you don=t have a proper trust, you must pay the taxes.

  11. Durable financial powers of attorney are an important estate planning tool for disability but these are revoked by death.

  12. Medical powers of attorney specify who will make your health-care decisions if you are terminally ill. These are advance directives, along with a living wills@ that specify care instructions.

  13. Arizona has an Advance Directives Registry for medical power of attorney and living wills, but no registry for wills or trusts. To participate in the Registry you need a username and password. Then you can access your documents from anywhere in the world.

  14. If your estate planning documents are more than 5 years old you should have them reviewed to make sure that they follow current laws and have current information regarding your heirs, beneficiaries and trustees or estate administrators.

  15. An estate@ does not mean you live in a Rockefeller mansion. If you own any property or have money in the bank, you have an estate. Remember that planning your estate is far cheaper than failing to plan. Having a clear plan avoids stress and dissension. Your heirs will thank you.

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