One of the main goals of setting up an estate plan is to ensure that your last wishes are carried out the way you want regarding how your assets and other property will be distributed when you die. There are several tools that an estate planning attorney can assist in setting up, including trusts and wills. During this process, there are many decisions that need to be made and one of the most important – and sometimes the most difficult – is who the beneficiaries will be.
One of the biggest mistakes people make in estate planning is to only name one heir or beneficiary, often making assumptions that do not always jive with the reality of what actually happens when they die. They may leave everything to their spouse without having a secondary plan of what should happen to the estate should the spouse pass away before they do.
There may also be the assumption that the spouse will make sure their children get their share of the estate. But what happens if the spouse should remarry? If there is nothing in place that awards the children the share of the estate that the decedent would have wanted, the new spouse may eventually inherit the assets because the estate plan was not set up to avoid this.
Your estate planning attorney can assist you in creating what is legally referred to as secondary contingencies in the event there have been major changes since you drafted your plans. Establishing living or other types of trust can also help avoid these issues.
Another mistake people make is naming one child as the sole heir or beneficiary, verbally instructing them to distribute the estate among the family and assuming they will do the right thing and divide the estate with their siblings. Sadly, money can cause people to make the wrong choices and that fair distribution may not happen. And legally, no matter what you may have articulated, if your specific wishes are not legally written in a will or some other estate planning instrument, then the person you name a sole beneficiary has the legal right to keep it all, leaving the others will little to no grounds to contest.
Instead of providing for your family when you are gone, the result can turn into a huge family battle, leaving irrepairable damage and a fractured family.
Avoiding Estate Conflicts
Your estate planning attorney will work with you to ensure that the final “product” is a legally sound estate plan. He or she will draft a will that satisfies all the legal requirements of the state you live in and made as contest-proof as legally possible. Your attorney can also set up different revocable trusts to ensure that your assets are divided just as you want them to be. It is also a good idea to meet with your attorney to evaluate your last will and testament in Arizona and estate plan every few years to make sure that any life events or family changes are addressed.
Thank you to our contributing Arizona Estate Planning Attorneys for their insight into wills and estate planning.