Estate planning is a crucial aspect of financial management that ensures your assets are distributed according to your wishes after your passing. When it comes to estate planning in Arizona, one common concern is avoiding probate, a legal process that can be time-consuming and costly. Recently attorney Eleonora “Lee” Holmes of Holmes Law in Fountain Hills spoke to RE/MAX Sun Properties agents about estate planning and probate. In the blog, we will explore the benefits of estate planning and strategies to steer clear of probate in the Grand Canyon State.
Probate is the legal process through which a deceased person’s assets are administered and distributed under the supervision of the court. In Arizona, probate can be both time-consuming and expensive, typically taking several months or even years to complete. During probate, the court will verify the validity of the will, appraise assets, settle debts, and distribute the remaining assets to beneficiaries. Probate also involves various court fees and legal expenses, which can significantly reduce the value from 3% to 10% of the estate left for beneficiaries.
Strategies to Avoid Probate in Arizona
Fortunately, there are several strategies available in Arizona to help avoid or minimize the probate process:
- Revocable Living Trust: One of the most popular methods to bypass probate is to create a revocable living trust. By transferring ownership of your assets to the trust, you effectively remove them from your probate estate. During your lifetime, you retain control as the trustee, and after your passing, a successor trustee distributes the assets to the beneficiaries as per your instructions.
- Beneficiary Designations: Designating beneficiaries on certain assets, such as life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and payable-on-death (POD) bank accounts, allows those assets to pass directly to the named beneficiaries outside of probate.
- Joint Ownership: Owning property jointly with rights of survivorship, particularly with a spouse, enables the property to transfer automatically to the surviving owner upon death, avoiding probate.
- Gifts and Charitable Donations: Gifting assets to your beneficiaries during your lifetime can help reduce the overall value of your estate, potentially lowering estate taxes. Additionally, charitable donations can be used to support causes you care about while providing potential tax benefits.
- Small Estate Affidavit: In Arizona, if the value of the estate is below a certain threshold (currently $100,000), a simplified probate process known as a small estate affidavit may be used, which expedites the transfer of assets to heirs.
Estate planning is an essential part of financial planning that allows you to protect your assets, care for your loved ones, and leave a lasting legacy. In Arizona, avoiding probate can be achieved through various legal strategies, such as living trusts, beneficiary designations, and joint ownership. By taking proactive steps to plan your estate properly, you can ensure that your final wishes are honored, and your loved ones can avoid the burdensome probate process during an already difficult time. Lee Holmes, Esq. with Holmes Law, PLLC 480-837-1421 is an experienced estate planning attorney to create a personalized plan tailored to your unique circumstances and goals.