When someone mentions “estate planning,” most people think the term refers to deciding what happens to their property after they die. In fact, some of the most important parts of your estate plan protect you — and your family — during your lifetime.
Accidents and medical emergencies give no advance warnings. They can happen to anyone, at any time.
If you suffer significant injuries in an accident or experience a medical emergency or sudden serious illness, your family will face some difficult issues. Who will make decisions about your personal and medical care? Who will manage the family finances and make critical financial decisions? If you own a business, what will happen to it? What are your own wishes about these important matters?
Your estate plan provides the answers to all those questions. When you create an estate plan, you put legal documents in place to address potential future issues that could disrupt your and your family’s lives. While it’s easy to put off the task, it’s also essential to take those steps before any disruptive events occur. That means the best time to make an estate plan is now.
Specific documents in your estate plan express your wishes about your care and management of your finances, in the event you are unable to attend to those essential matters yourself. In your plan, you also designate specific individuals to have responsibility for your personal care, your medical decisions, and management of your finances.
Durable powers of attorney designate the individuals who make decisions for you if you become incapacitated. Arizona law requires separate documents for different purposes. Your estate plan includes:
Your plan also may include a living will, which expresses your wishes for end of life care, as well as a HIPAA medical records release authorization form. With the exception of the durable financial power of attorney, these documents often are called advance directives, because they set out your preferences for your care in future circumstances, if you are unable to express your wishes yourself.
There are very sound reasons to create these documents. You should choose who will care for you and manage your finances, if a time comes when you require assistance with those tasks. You also should carefully lay out your own wishes about your personal and medical care and finances, to make sure those wishes are honored.
To learn more details about all these documents, please read our blog article, Why Do You Need a Durable Power of Attorney?
The documents that detail your care and finances protect not only you — they also protect your family. Your estate plan removes confusion and uncertainty about your personal and financial affairs. It assures your family members that you thought through everything in advance and expressed your wishes clearly. It also reassures them that the family’s financial future will remain stable.
If you do not have these documents in place, your family may have to ask a court to resolve issues about your personal and medical care, as well as your financial matters. In this type of situation, family members often disagree about who should make decisions and what those decisions should be.
Family member disagreements that arise when a loved one becomes incapacitated can escalate into serious disputes that ruin close relationships forever. By avoiding the situations that can create those disputes, you protect your family members and preserve their important family relationships.
A thorough estate plan does a lot more than address your care and wishes if you become incapacitated. It goes a long way toward resolving other family disputes that can arise over the course of time.
Your estate plan gives you and your whole family peace of mind about what the future holds, regardless of what unpredictable events may occur. The assurance that you carefully considered the welfare of your family into the future is invaluable for both you and your individual family members.
To get started on the planning process, you should talk with an experienced Arizona estate planning attorney. You can create significant problems for yourself and your family if you use an online service, internet forms, or other forms that someone gives you. Those problems may not become apparent until it is too late to fix them. Consulting with a knowledgeable lawyer is the only way to be certain your estate plan is sound, complete, and in full compliance with the requirements of Arizona law.
At Peterson Law Offices, wills and estate planning are a focus of our practice. We provide top-quality services at affordable prices and can assist you in creating a new estate plan or help you revise your outdated plan.
We welcome inquiries from clients throughout the East Valley, including Queen Creek, San Tan Valley, Gilbert, Mesa, and Chandler. Schedule your free initial consultation by calling 480-878-5998 or using our online contact form.
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