Estate Planning 101: The Basics

What is Estate Planning?  

Estate planning is the legal process of directing the handling of your estate in the event of your death or incapacitation. For instance, have you ever heard someone say they are “getting their affairs in order” or “drawing up a will”? This is what they’re talking about! 

Here’s everything you need to know: 

Do I need an estate plan???  

Young couple sitting on a couch preparing an estate plan in a newly purchased home

TL; DR – Yes, everyone should have one.  

A common misconception is that only the ultra-wealthy need an estate plan, but that’s not true! Regardless of your income level, estate planning is highly important.

It will allow you to protect your legacy and prepare yourself and your family for the future. Everyone should have a plan in place, no matter how much or how little they have. 

The Goals and Benefits

  • Protecting Your Assets and Wealth 
    Having an estate plan is the best way to protect your finances, such as financial accounts (checking and savings accounts, investments, retirement funds, etc.), properties, businesses, personal belongings, etc. You need to have a plan in place that designates how you want those assets handled and distributed upon your passing or incapacitation. 
  • Helping Your Loved Ones Avoid Probate Court 
    A properly-drafted estate plan ensures your loved ones can handle the distribution of your assets with ease after your passing. It should unquestionably be a time in which they have the space to grieve— not undergo the often incredibly complicated and expensive Probate process.
  • Preparing for Unexpected Life Events 
    No one wants to think about the fragility of life and health, but we all know how quickly life changes. If you fall ill or unexpectedly pass, an estate plan gives your loved ones the legal support they need.

    To handle your affairs according to your wishes and without undue stress, your estate plan will prove invaluable. As a result, distributing your assets and making your medical and financial decisions will be far less stressful and complicated.

What does an Estate Plan Include? 

Several different legal documents can be added to your estate plan, and each serves an individual purpose. We all have unique assets and have worked hard for our legacies, so choosing which of these documents to include in your plan can be confusing!

With this in mind, we always recommend hiring an experienced estate planning attorney to create a plan according to your unique needs. They will help you determine what should be included and how to set yourself up for the future and protect your legacy with care.

These documents are most frequently included in estate plans: 

Two men sitting at a table creating an estate plan
  • Last Will and Testament: Expresses a person’s wishes for how they’d like their assets to be distributed in the event of their death 
  • Trust: A trust is a legal arrangement in which a grantor or trustor (the person who creates the trust) can transfer their assets to a trust and nominate a trustee. Thereafter, the trustee is obligated to manage the trust and distribute the assets according to its instructions. They’re also obligated to distribute assets according to the best interests of the beneficiaries. 
  • Durable Financial Power of Attorney: Designates a trusted person to manage your finances and assets in the event of their incapacitation 
  • Healthcare Power of Attorney and Living Will: In the event you are incapacitated and unable to give your consent to medical treatment, these two documents may prove vital to decisions for your future.

    A Living Will details your wishes regarding your medical treatment, i.e. life-saving care, pain management, organ donation, etc. 

    A Healthcare Power of Attorney (“HCPOA”) designates a trusted person to make these medical decisions on your behalf. Therefore, if you have a Living Will, the decisions of your appointed HCPOA are more likely to be made according to your wishes.
  • Guardianship and Conservator Designations: These designations nominate a trusted person to care for your minor children’s health and welfare, in the event of your death or incapacitation. In addition, they can manage the children’s finances until they reach a certain age.

What happens if you don’t have an Estate Plan? 

In short, if you don’t have an estate plan in place, you’re taking a risk. You may leave your assets AND important decisions regarding your future up to 1) the court, or 2) people who may not act with your best interests in mind.  

Take just a small amount of time and effort to prepare an estate plan NOW. As a result, you will save your family countless headaches, intense stress, and a lot of money in the future. 

How to Get Started

Although it may seem like an overwhelming process, creating your estate plan can be made easy.

Everyone is different: we all have different families, unique assets, and distinct lifestyles. To that end, we all need different estate plans that fit our individual needs!

Headshot of Joseph T. Kirshy, Esq. - Director of Estate Planning and Probate at Tait & Hall Law Firm in Phoenix, Arizona
Joseph T. Kirshy, Esq.
Director of Estate Planning & Probate
Law Firm of Tait & Hall in Phoenix, AZ

You deserve a plan as unique as you are.

Hiring an experienced estate planning lawyer will ensure your plan is tailor-made to your individual legacy. To be sure, they’ll be able to determine what should be included in your plan according to your specific assets and unique needs.

Joseph Kirshy is our firm’s Director of Estate Planning and Probate. He has the knowledge and experience to create a plan that protects your unique legacy and prepares your loved ones for the future.

Our team here at Tait & Hall is ready to create a plan that’s made just for you.  

Call Tait & Hall TODAY to get started: 480-405-6767 

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