Estate Planning in Arizona: What You Need to Know


Donald A. Loose is the founder and managing partner of Loose, Brown & Associates, P.C. The firm, with offices in Phoenix and Tucson, provides legal services and representation to individuals and businesses throughout Arizona. Don’s practice is concentrated in the areas of business, litigation, and estates. In the more than twenty-five years that Don has practiced law in Arizona, he has counseled untold numbers of clients on wealth preservation, family protection, and succession planning issues. This is Don’s second book. His first book, Arizona Laws 101: A Handbook for Non-Lawyers, was first published in 2005 and won an Arizona Book Award. Don is a frequent guest on television and radio talk shows where he is invited to discuss legal issues and events.

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Are you interested in paying the minimum amount of estate and gift taxes? Would you like to avoid probate and keep your financial affairs private? Estate Planning in Arizona is the reference you need. Written for Arizonans with little or no legal experience, this book tells you what you need to know:

  • The basics of wills and trusts
  • Protecting your assets
  • Appointing guardians for your children
  • Health care directives and living wills
  • Taking title to real estate
  • . . . and much more!

Providing you with a better understanding of the laws and issues involved in estate planning, this comprehensive, easy-to-understand book will help you to preserve wealth, protect your family, and create a winning succession plan.



Ten Common Misconceptions about Wills

  1. If I don’t have a will, my property will go to the state. False. If you don’t have a will, your property will go to your heirs under the law of descent and distribution in Arizona. Your property will go to the state only if you die without a will and you have no living relative to inherit it.
  2. If I have a will, all of my property will automati­cally pass under it. False. Some or all of your prop­erty may pass outside your will by reason of survivorship provisions, joint title, pay-on-death clauses, and beneficiary designations in deeds and contracts. For instance, life insurance proceeds will be payable to the beneficiaries that you have desig­nated in the insurance contract, regardless of the terms of your will.
  3. The will that I executed before I moved to Arizona is invalid. False. If your will was valid in the state or country in which it was executed, it is valid in Arizona. (Yet it is a good idea to update your will in your new state.)
  4. I have to execute a living trust to avoid taxes on my estate. False. Most estates will not be subject to taxation with or without a living trust. In 2008, up to $2,000,000 is exempt from estate taxes (assuming no lifetime transfers—see Unified Credit Exemption Amounts in appendix A). The unified credit exemp­tion is scheduled to increase to $3,500,000 in 2009 before repeal in 2010. If you are married, you can leave an unlimited amount to your spouse without payment of any estate taxes.
  5. If I execute a will, my estate will be subjected to costly attorney fees and probate charges when I die. False. It is not inherently expensive to probate a will in Arizona. An informal and inexpensive pro­bate process is available in most cases. There are no separate probate fees other than a small filing fee to start the case.
  6. It is always less expensive to leave my property under a living trust than a will. False. In some cases it is actually more expensive to create a living trust than to informally probate an estate. It depends on the nature and value of your assets.
  7. If I execute a will, I will be unable to create a trust for my children. False. One or more trusts can be created in a will. These are known as “testamentary trusts,” and they take effect upon the death of the person executing the will (the “testator”). By use of a testa­mentary trust, you can set aside money or property for the future benefit of your children. The testa­mentary trust will be administered by the trustee you appoint in your will.
  8. If my estate is probated under a will, my assets will be tied up for years in the courts. False. Infor­mal probate can be started almost immediately after your death, allows the personal representative immediate access to your assets, and, in most cases, can be completed in nine months or less.
  9. My will must be filed after it is executed. False. In Ari­zona, there is no provision for the filing of a will until after the death of the testator. The origi­nal stays with the testator after execution.
  10. It is better to keep my will in a safe deposit box than at home. False. Accessing a safe deposit box is often difficult and time consuming after the death of the person renting the box. A better place to keep your will is at home with your other important papers, where family members can easily access it.


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