Serving as the Family Estate Planner in AZ - A Responsible Role
Working with an experienced estate planning attorney in Arizona to create a complete estate plan for your family members is more important than you think.
Estate planning involves creating legal documents and arrangements to transfer assets upon incapacity or death. While estate planning is essential, the process can seem daunting for individuals and families. This is where a family estate planner provides critical guidance.
What is a Family Estate Planner?
A family estate planner is an estate planning professional, usually an attorney, who helps families navigate the complex legal and financial considerations involved in getting estate plans in order.
A family estate planner typically assists with:
- Analyzing a family's assets and financial situation to understand their estate tax exposure. This includes evaluating retirement accounts, life insurance policies, real estate, brokerage accounts, and other property.
- Educating families on core estate planning documents like wills, trusts, financial and medical powers of attorney, health care directives and power of attorney, and more. They explain what each document does as part of your estate plan.
- Drafting customized estate planning documents to reflect the family's intentions for property distribution, beneficiary designations, health care proxies, guardian assignments for minors, and other wishes as part of your estate plan.
- Advising on strategies to minimize estate tax based on state and federal tax laws. This may involve use of trusts, gifting, asset transfers to beneficiaries, and other estate tax reduction techniques. Minimize estate taxes is one of the main goals with your estate plan.
- Facilitating discussions among family members to help them thoughtfully assign roles like estate executor, trustees, guardians for minors, and health care agents and the legal document created for you.
- Helping complete beneficiary designation forms for retirement accounts, insurance policies, bank accounts, and other assets to align with the estate plan.
- Working with other professionals like financial planners, accountants, life insurance agents, tax professional, and trust companies to implement a coordinated estate plan for your family. That is specially important if you have minor children.
- Keeping estate plans updated to account for life changes like births, deaths, divorces, moves, retirement, inheritance receipts, financial fluctuations, and evolving tax laws. Make sure to work with a estate planning lawyer that is also a tax professional.
The guidance of a family estate planner helps ensure all these complex moving pieces align to carry out the family's wishes during life disruptions.
Top Reasons Families Need a Family Estate Planner
Here are some of the top reasons to work with a family estate planning professional:
1. Avoid Lengthy Court Processes
A thoughtfully crafted estate plan helps avoid assets getting tied up in prolonged probate court proceedings after death. The right documents legally transfer property to the desired beneficiaries and heirs smoothly.
The main goal of most people when talking to an estate attorney is to avoid probate court.
2. Prevent Unnecessary Estate Taxes
Careful structuring of assets, gifting, trusts, and other strategies can minimize estate and inheritance taxes to pass on more wealth to beneficiaries. An estate planner optimizes this. You always want to minimize estate taxes.
Although estate taxes (specially federal estate tax) are more relevant for larger estates it is important to always keep an eye on it. An estate attorney will keep you up to date with changes in the law that may affect a legal document. Legal or tax advice should be done by professionals for your benefit.
3. Protect the Family's Legacy
Ensuring assets and cherished possessions are transferred according to your values and principles preserves the family legacy for heirs. Some assets are tangible assets but other have sentimental value.
4. Provide Peace of Mind
Knowing your family's financial and medical affairs are in properly ordered in legally binding documents brings immense peace of mind. That is specially important if you become incapacitated. your medical care should always come first.
5. Save Family from Difficult Decisions
Clear instructions for property distribution, guardianship of minors (if you have minor children), healthcare wishes, and other estate matters helps save families from having to make hard choices amidst grief and uncertainty.
That is when an estate planning checklist that includes bank accounts, financial accounts, all financial assets, digital assets (like social media accounts) comes in handy.
One of the common estate planning documents is a living will. That document is specially important to save your family member from deciding when is time to let you go. The doctors will know your wishes and follow them.
6. Organize Scattered Assets and Accounts
Families often have assets, documents, online accounts, and debts scattered in various places. An estate planner helps consolidate and organize these. It is important to have your financial affairs in order and have a good idea of all your assets as part of your estate plan.
Create an estate planning checklist with all your financial affairs before you talk to an estate attorney. Experienced estate planning attorneys will make that list part of their estate planning process. At our estate planing law firm we sent you a questionnaire to fill our before you see an attorney. It will ask about tangible and intangible assets. Make sure to include digital assets as well.
One of the most common estate planning mistakes is creating a living trust and not adding all your assets into it, which will result in a probate process in a probate court.
7. Make Appropriate Healthcare Plans
Estate planning involves articulating wishes for medical care, organ donation, life support, and related health considerations at end of life when you cannot speak for yourself. Consider doing a living will as well to express your end of life decisions.
It is important to have a health care proxy and a health care power of attorney with HIPAA access. In case of an emergency the HIPAA access will let your health care agent have access to your medical records.
8. Facilitate Productive Family Discussions
Difficult conversations come with estate planning. A family estate planner can tactfully facilitate discussions to surface priorities and find solutions agreeable to all. You can give clear guidance to your family about your own affairs.
9. Ensure Completion of All Estate Planning Steps
Estate planning has many complex components. A family estate planner makes sure families complete every item on the estate planning checklist.
10. Adapt Plans Over Time
Life brings many changes that impact estate plans. An estate planner helps adjust plans periodically to realign with evolving family needs and situations.
Key Legal Documents in a Complete Estate Plan
Here are some of the core legal documents a family estate planner can help families put in place:
- Last will and testament - This cornerstone document outlines who inherits your property upon death. It also names an executor, guardians for dependents, and outlines funeral wishes.
- Revocable living trust - This can be used to avoid probate and efficiently transfer property. Assets are placed into the trust during life and distributed to beneficiaries upon death.
- Financial power of attorney - This empowers someone to make financial decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. It grants them authority over bank accounts, bills, real estate transactions, and more.
- Health care power of attorney - This appoints someone to make medical decisions if you are unable to do so yourself. It clarifies wishes for life support, procedures, long-term care, and other considerations.
- Living will - This specifies preferences for end-of-life medical treatments to guide doctors and family members. It articulates whether you want interventions like resuscitation, intubation, feeding tube insertion, etc.
- HIPAA release form - This authorizes doctors to release medical information to designated loved ones. It permits them to access your records, speak with physicians, and coordinate care if needed.
- Beneficiary designations - These indicate who should receive proceeds from specific accounts, like life insurance policies, retirement plans, and investments upon your death.
No single document handles everything in estate planning. Working with a family estate planner ensures all these interconnected components work together to fully address a family’s needs and goals.
Choosing the Right Family Estate Planner
Not all estate planners have the same experience and qualifications. When selecting a family estate planner, look for these traits:
- Extensive estate planning expertise, including both tax and legal considerations
- Good listener who seeks to fully understand family dynamics and needs before advising
- Clear communicator able to explain complex terms and laws simply
- Responsive to questions and attentive to details
- Well-organized and diligent about following up on action items
- Objective counselor focused on family's best interests, not upselling services
- Respectful, compassionate, and ethical in dealing with sensitive family matters
- Collaborates well with other professionals like CPAs and financial advisors
- Up to date on the latest tax code changes relevant to estate planning
With the help of a trusted family estate planning advisor guiding you every step of the way, you can feel confident your family's affairs are in order as part of your estate plan. This provides priceless peace of mind knowing things are taken care of should the unexpected happen.
Create an estate plan in Arizona today!
Call (480) 565-8020 to schedule a free estate planning consultation with an experienced estate planning lawyer today. Citadel Law firm will be pleased to help. Click here to schedule!
We work on a flat fee basis, it doesn't matter if you need a basic will, an irrevocable trust, or a durable power, or health care or medical power of attorney. We can help you with an advance healthcare directive too.
You will know how much you will pay before you sign your legal contract with us. Probate costs will be much higher than than proactively working on your estate planning documents.