When Should A Married Couple Consider Estate Planning?

Often times married couples assume that their spouse will inherit their property when they die. They also often assume their children will inherit their property when they die. The truth is that inheritance always depends on the family situation and the nature of the property in a person’s estate.  In a community property state like Arizona a person can die with separate property which is in their own name. A person can die owning community property (property shared equally in their marriage) or they can own property jointly with a spouse or other persons as jointly held (non-community) property.

Certain legal rules must be applied that can sometimes have less than desirable results for both the deceased person and their surviving family members. These rules are very much dependent on what type of property the deceased person held while living.  For example a person can inherit a home from their deceased parent. This property being held solely in the inheriting person’s name is considered their separate property. If that person dies leaving a surviving spouse and a minor child they may very well believe that the husband will inherit the house and carry on. The truth is the husband would inherit half of the home and the minor child would inherit the other half of the home.

The above result seems harmless at first glance; however, the inheritance would only occur as the result of a time consuming and costly probate proceeding in the Superior Court. In addition the fact that the minor child has acquired a substantial asset means that their father will need to establish a conservatorship on their behalf which will be subject to substantial time consuming court supervision and substantial legal fees and costs until the child reaches 18 years of age.  This would render the child’s financial estate a public matter during their minority.

A much more time and money efficient approach for the inheriting parent would  to establish an estate plan upon their own inheritance that is designed to pass the property directly to the person(s) they wish to give the property to in a manner that bypasses probate proceedings as well as any subsequent conservatorship of an heir, keeping the matter private. At Arizona Mobile Attorneys we have prepared many such estate plans and can assist you with your plan.

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