Estate Planning

Estate Planning


Whether now or in the future, planning for the care of your property is an important step in protecting you and your family, regardless of where you are in life.

In developing an estate plan, we work with you to help ensure:

  1. Your wishes are carried out in respect to your property, wealth and loved ones, upon death.
  2. That we are able to minimize estate and income taxation and avoid probate through the court system.

You don’t have to be wealthy or own a lot of fancy things to have an estate and need it protected. In fact, everything you own from house (and everything in it) to car, to savings and checking accounts, all count as part of your “estate.”

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First Steps in Developing an Estate Plan

Before we can develop a solid estate plan, you will need to consider the following:

Who do you want to be responsible for collecting your assets after death? They will be responsible for:

  • Administering your estate
  • Opening probate if necessary
  • Distributing your property to your beneficiaries
  • Completing your last tax return
  • Paying any taxes and/or debts you may have

If you have children under legal age, who do you want to take responsibility for them? A guardian will be responsible for raising and caring for your children after you are gone.

If you have children under legal age, who do you want to be responsible for administering and accounting for any property they may own, or come to own as a beneficiary of your estate? That’s what your conservator(s) will do.

What type of title to your assets should you and your spouse have? Types of title to consider:

  • Community property: owned jointly and the surviving spouse gets half at death.
  • Community property with right of survivorship: owned jointly and the surviving spouse automatically gets all shared assets when the other dies. They cannot be left to anyone else in the deceased’s will. Sale of any property is no subject to capital gains taxes.
  • Joint tenancy: similar to community property with right of survivorship. Property sold after the death of a spouse may be subject to capital gains taxes.

Or you may choose to hold some other type of title.

If you cannot care or make decisions for yourself, who do you want to be responsible for making decisions about your care? They might be making decisions regarding the following:

  • What are your wishes regarding a living will?
  • Do you want medical personnel to perform CPR and provide help breathing if you cannot?
  • What are your wishes about life support and withdrawing that support if you are severely injured or terminally ill?

If you are unable to manage your financial affairs, who do you want to be responsible for that? They might be paying your bills, making investment decisions, managing your property and real estate.

Who are you going to leave your property to? Remember that when buying life insurance and retirement benefits you must name a beneficiary. Have you kept this up to date? When prepare a Will, who are you naming to receive your property and financial assets?

A trust can provide asset management especially if you have children who are not old enough to manage property on their own. A well-drafted trust, through the team at Chester McLaughlin, can:

  1. Protect a child’s inheritance from creditors, ex-spouses and bankruptcy, while still allowing the child to have control over the trust and distributions.
  2. Provide for a spouse in cases where there are children from a previous marriage who also need to be provided for.

Is your estate large enough to be subject to federal taxes?

  • What can you do to eliminate or reduce your potential estate tax liability?
  • How will the taxes be paid, if owed?

Do you have a disabled child who is receiving public benefits that have financial eligibility requirements?

  • What will happen to those benefits if your child inherits assets from you?
  • Should you create a special needs trust so that it can hold assets that you leave to your child that can be used for additional needs not covered by the public programs?

A well-drafted special needs trust can ensure the assets held by the trust are not counted in the public benefit eligibility determination. Our team can help…

A Comprehensive Estate Plan

Many people think a Last Will and Testament constitutes an estate plan. While it is usually the best first step, it is not an estate plan by itself. A comprehensive estate plan includes a number of other components:

A legal document that itemizes distribution of your property to beneficiaries upon death. It also names an Executor or someone who will manage your estate and handle the paperwork. It will also name conservators and guardians if you have children under legal age, specify any special gifts and include burial instructions.

Under Arizona law this allows you to provide written instructions regarding what type of medical treatment you want if incapacitated and unable to make those decisions for yourself.

  • Do you want medical personnel to perform CPR if your heart stops?
  • Do you want artificial respiration if you stop breathing?
  • Do you want to be put on life support if you need it to be kept alive due to terminal illness or severe injury?

Typically, your living will would give clear direction regarding artificial ventilation, artificial food and fluids, CPR, and dialysis.

A person appointed to handle your finances on your behalf. This person has the power to make binding decisions that affect your money and other assets. They may be responsible for:

  • Managing investments
  • Managing property
  • Paying bills
  • Spending money for your care

Also known as “Medical Power of Attorney,” or “Healthcare Proxy.” A legal document that allows you to assign a person to make health care (including mental health) decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself. They can access your healthcare information in compliance with federal HIPPA laws.

Mostly recommended in cases where the individual has a history of mental illness and mental health treatment, and wants to give very specific instructions about the mental health care they want or do not want. The person appointed would be responsible for acting according to the principal’s wishes.

Commonly known as a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) or Orange Form. This document is used to let medical technicians like EMS and paramedics know that you do not want to be resuscitated if your heart stops beating or you stop breathing. The decision to get a DNR is a personal one between the person getting it and their loved ones. A DNR must be signed by a health care professional and carried on your person or posted prominently in your home, such as on a refrigerator to be valid.

A trust is used effectively in certain situations, but it’s not helpful for everyone. A trust is most useful for:

  • Cases which a spouse needs to be provided for as do minor children from a former marriage
  • When you own property outside the state of Arizona

The team at the Law Offices of Chester B. McLaughlin, P.C. often partners with other professional advisors, such as accountants and financial planners, to ensure we create the most comprehensive estate plan. It’s critical that the documents outlined above are drafted carefully and strategically. Call us at (928) 443-9934 for assistance with your estate plan.

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