According to Prescott estate planning attorney Chuck Walker, somewhere around half of all Arizona residents over 60 have no estate planning contingencies…
As Mr. Walker explained, this has so many serious implications for what happens to your estate, even before you pass away.
“An estate plan should always declare who makes financial, healthcare and investment decisions on your behalf in the event that you are unable to.
“In the absence of healthcare power of attorney, hospitals, may allow some or all relatives to make your decisions, or the hospital and doctors are legally bound to follow their own protocol.
“Without a formal healthcare plan, it may not even be possible for relatives living far away to obtain a condition check.
“There can also be issues in terms of who is able to deal with your day-to-day financial matters if you are unable to, including payment of bills and managing bank accounts, including necessary withdrawal of funds.
“A financial Power of attorney is also very important if items need to be sold, such as real estate and vehicles, that have title in the name of the person who is incapacitated.”
Mr. Walker stressed that healthcare and financial powers of attorney ceases when you pass away, beyond the simple arrangement of funeral services. At this point it becomes necessary to bring a predetermined will/trust structure into play that efficiently deals with the distribution of assets and management of all aspects of the estate, not least for optimal tax efficiency and to avoid the possibility of probate, in which a court becomes involved in the ownership of the deceased’s property.
“Above all, a robust estate plan enables you and your beneficiaries to have total control of what happens. There will need to be a final tax income return completed by family members after you die, so a plan also needs to take this inevitable eventuality into account, so that everything goes as smoothly as possible.
“It’s also good to think of an estate plan as being set up like a baseball batting order. You need to create a stated line of succession, so that someone is always ready to ‘step up to the plate’ to handle your personal health, property and financial affairs of the estate.”
Reinforcing the points made by Mr. Walker, Hyland/Schneider Team partner Paul Schneider has seen the very distressing effects of no planning when clients have run into issues when selling a home when a relative dies intestate (without a will).
Paul commented: “Procrastination on estate planning is a big mistake and it can cause chaos for survivors, who in some cases are powerless to enforce what your wishes are when there is no legally recognized record of them. None of us knows how long we have to live, so it’s vital to act now and eliminate any uncertainty.”
Chuck Walker is a partner of Walker and Walker Attorneys At Law PLC. Prescott and can be contacted at 928-445-1911 or via the firm’s website at walkerestatelaw.com.