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For our "Top 10 List" about wills and other life-planning documents, see below. Don't procrastinate, it's important to get life-planning documents in place - at any age.


1. Children. To designate a Guardian of YOUR choice for your minor children, whom you hope outlive you, if something happens to you and your spouse. This minimizes the legal costs and emotional trauma of having to go to court to designate a guardian.

2. Naming your Heirs. Toname heirs YOU select to receive assets, rather than having your assets go to heirs selected by Arizona's law of intestate succession.

3. Devising your Tangible Personal Property.Designating who you want to receive certain items of tangible personal property. This allows you to make changes pertaining to certain tangible personal property without amending your Will.

3. Pets. To designate a successor owner of YOUR choice for your pets, many species of which outlive their owner.

4. Money Management. To designate a Conservator of YOUR choice to manage your finances.

5. Designating an Agent. For property that you own, designating an agent in a properly drafted, very comprehensive document that will become effective if, and only if, you become unable to make financial decisions and that terminates on the moment of your death. A properly drafted document prevent your Agent from having to go to court to be appointed your conservator if you were to become incompetent.

6. Choosing whether to “Pull the Plug”. Designating in a properly drafted document whether a doctor can pull the plug if you are not conscious and are being kept alive by a machine, or in a terminal condition. Without this document, your wishes may not be carried out without your family incurring legal fees and the heartache of getting a court order, which takes time while medical bills increase.

7. Designating a heath care Agent. Designating an agent to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so, in a properly drafted and comprehensive document. This document states your medical and mental health care, organ donation and other important wishes that often are unknown by your family and create heartache for families to have to make decisions about. Properly drafted, this document also may authorize healthcare providers to provide your designated agent with needed information about your health, medical condition and treatment.

8. Pending Divorce or having a Significant Other without Marriage. If a spouse dies while a divorce is pending, that person’s assets may transfer to their spouse they’re in the process of divorcing unless proper documents are in place. Likewise, having a Significant Other/Life Partner without marriage prevents that person from being your heir, agent, conservator, guardian of minor children, successor owner of pets, etc. without proper documents in place.

9. Avoiding Probate and Maintaining Confidentiality. If these goals are important to you, creating and funding a properly drafted and comprehensive trust document, regardless of the value of your assets, allows you to avoid probate and maintain confidentiality in the handling of your estate. Or, creating property drafted (and possible recorded) documents to transfer title to certain assets to avoid probate with respect to those assets without creating a trust.

10. Minimizing Taxes. Holding title to and transferring assets in ways to minimize taxes owed by your estate and your heirs.

© 2009 Gervase Law Firm PLLC. All Rights Reserved.

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