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WILLS ARE ESSENTIAL TO EVERY ESTATE PLAN Your Will Allows You to Make Specific Choices that Take Effect Once You Are Gone

Larry Deason and Shawn Garner Estate Planning and Elder Law Attorneys in Yuma Arizona


Everyone creating an estate plan must have a will. This is a tried and true rule that all estate planning lawyers know and follow. Even if your estate plan incorporates additional measures, such as various trusts or advanced estate planning techniques, your will is the only legal document that will allow you to make specific choices. Your will acts as your messenger. The message it delivers is one that your family will only hear after you have died. Your last will and testament is designed to allow you to make specific choices that will only take effect once you are gone. In a simple will you name who you want to inherit your property, select someone who will represent your estate after you die, and appoint someone who will care for any minor children should you die before they become adults. Yet even the simplest of wills has to comply with specific rules. Also, because every state has its own laws about wills, those requirements aren’t always the same.

Making Your Will In Arizona, any adult (a person age 18 or older) can make a last will and testament as long as he or she is mentally sound. To be mentally sound you have to be able to understand what you own and how your choices will affect you, your property, and others. Almost everyone is mentally sound. However, if a court has determined that you are not capable of making your own choices, or you are suffering from a mind-altering condition, you cannot

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make a will. Also, you have to make your will in writing. The document you create can be made either in your own handwriting or printed. If you make a printed will, also known as an attested will, you have to sign the document in the presence of two adult witnesses. Those witnesses must also then sign the document after witnessing you sign. If you make a holographic will, a fancy name for a handwritten will, you don’t need to have witnesses sign the document. However, it’s always better to have an attested will rather than a handwritten will, because there can be significant difficulties when trying to prove the validity of a handwritten document.

Entirely Optional Making a will is entirely up to you. No one can ever force you to make a will or require that you change or modify an old will. Because you can make a will as long as you are mentally competent, this means that you can even change the terms of a previous will or make a new will. This is true even if you are no longer physically able to sign your name. In such a situation you might, for example, direct your lawyer to write your will, have someone sign your name on your behalf, and do so in the presence of two witnesses. The important point to remember here is that the choices you make sure through your will are always entirely up to you.

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Your Choices Most people create wills with the intention of choosing how they will leave inheritances to their family, friends, charities, or any other person or organization. When you choose to leave an inheritance through a will, you do so through what is commonly referred to as a “giving clause.” These clauses contain individual instructions about your property and who you want to inherit it. For example, you might create a giving clause that leaves a specific piece of property to a family member. Other giving clauses might be more general, such as leaving a specific fraction of your estate to each child. Another option is to use both specific giving clauses and general clauses. For example, you might choose to leave 50% of your real estate holdings to your spouse, your personal property to your children, and the remainder of your estate—anything you didn’t otherwise already give away—to charity.

Appointments Once you die, someone will have to take your will to an Arizona probate court to begin the probate process. Someone will also have to take care of your property and ensure that your wishes are followed. Luckily, your will gives you the ability to choose who this person is. A fiduciary powers clause allows you to choose your executor, also called your personal representative or estate administrator. You can choose anyone you like to serve in this position, but that person must be willing to serve and must be a capable adult.

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If you have minor children you can also use your will to select a guardian. A guardian is someone who will take over parenting responsibilities should you die. If your spouse or the child’s other parent survives you, there is no need for the guardian to take over. However, if you are a single parent or the other parent has passed away, the guardian clause is an essential piece of your will.

Pre-Determined Outcomes One of the many questions estate planning attorneys regularly hear is what happens to your property if you don’t leave a will? First of all, this happens all the time. Only about half of all adults ever make a last will and testament. Second, state lawmakers know that this happens frequently, and they have long ago created laws that deal with it. These laws, called intestacy laws, predetermine who receives your property if you don’t have a will. In other words, if you choose not to make a will you allow your state laws to determine who inherits her property, who becomes your executor, and who becomes guardian of your child.

Far More Than Wills This article began with the idea that wills are an essential piece of every estate plan. That’s true, but that doesn’t mean they are the only piece you need. Depending on the other pieces you create, your will might look very different than if you created it on its own. Only by crafting each estate planning document as part of an interlocking puzzle of pieces, each of which compliments the other, can you be assured that your will meets your needs.

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About the Authors Larry Deason and his staff have been providing quality legal services for clients since 1971. Their mission is to assist people who are concerned about protecting their families from the devastating legal and financial impacts of disability, death, and taxes. Because he believes in the importance of an informed public, Deason spends considerable time educating consumers about Estate Planning issues. He writes a monthly Estate Planning column in The Sun, and he regularly conducts seminars on various Estate Planning topics. Deason and his staff believe that in many instances Living Trusts offer clients a proven and powerful tool for protecting their families from the expense and delay of probate, as well as a strategy for eliminating or minimizing federal taxes. Larry Deason

Deason’s firm is staffed with paralegals and consultants who are experienced and trained in a variety of Estate Planning areas. The aim of each member of the firm is to help clients accomplish their Estate Planning goals while taking the mystery out of the whole process. We take pride in knowing that our clients feel “peace of mind” once the planning process is completed.

In 2008, Mr. Garner began practicing law in Yuma in the fields of commercial litigation and bankruptcy. In 2011, Mr. Garner switched his field of practice to exclusively estate planning because he found it more rewarding to help people avoid the costs and stresses associated with litigation more than trying to resolve disputes through litigation and court intervention. Since joining the Deason Law Firm, he’s found great satisfaction in assisting clients achieve peace of mind that comes with knowing their affairs are in order. “I enjoy helping clients take advantage of provisions available to have their assets passed to their heirs and loved ones without the time delays, expenses, court involvement and emotional burden caused by inadequate planning.” Shawn Garner

I’ve seen my clients live with the results of bad planning. Death and disability are difficult enough to deal with. When you add the financial and legal implications of an incomplete estate plan or no plan at all, it can be devastating to the surviving spouse and family members.

Deason Garner Law Firm 242 West 28th Street, Suite A Yuma, AZ 85364 Phone: (928) 783-4575 http://www.DeasonGarnerLaw.com Copyright 2013

Deason Garner Law Firm

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Wills are essential to every estate plan  

Everyone creating an estate plan must have a will. This is a tried and true rule that all estate planning lawyers know and follow. Even if y...

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