Writing a will: why it’s so important

writing a will, Arizona, Phoenix, estate planning, attorneys
If not now, when? Writing a will is easy to put off but critical in the event of a sudden loss of life.

In the hectic life that is parenthood, making a will can easily fall to the bottom of the priority list. After all, there are bills to pay, medical appointments to keep and shopping lists to fulfill. Still, there are many reasons why the task of creating this crucial document needs to be re-slotted to the “urgent” category.

The number one reason parents need to consider making a will is to nominate a guardian. It needs to be put forth very clearly who will be responsible for the children should a tragic event occur. Making a will also helps determine how assets will be distributed.

“Each state has its own statutes,” says Steve Cook, an attorney with Cook & Cook in Mesa. “Unless you have a will, the state writes a will for you.”

That default could result in less-than-ideal distributions, especially in complicated circumstances—such as second marriages, partnerships and other less traditional family units—where stepchildren or other non-biological dependents are involved. In these situations, some close family members could be left without any legal rights to inheritance.

When children have special needs, making a will is critical. If funds are left in their names, they may no longer be eligible for public benefits.

Once a will is made, it should be reviewed every few years as lives and needs change.

Types of wills:

  • Holographic will. Not all states offer this type of will, but Arizona does. It requires only that the will be written out on a piece of paper in the maker’s handwriting. Many problems are associated with this type of will, however, and it is not recommended for most circumstances.
  • Attested will. Slightly more complicated than the holographic will, an attested will must be signed by witnesses.
  • Self-proved will. This type of will requires that witnesses sign an affidavit before a notary public.
  • Irrevocable living trust. This is the most comprehensive document and helps to avoid probate court. But some families find this cumbersome because it requires putting all assets into the trust.

Other important legal documents:

  • Durable power of attorney. Allows someone to act on your behalf should you become incapacitated.
  • Healthcare power of attorney. Designates someone to make health decisions on your behalf.
  • Living will. Specifies the steps you would want to take to prolong your life.

Where to go for help:

  • Online options. Many websites offer will-making services. Be sure to print the document and sign it in your own handwriting. Electronic signatures are not always accepted.
  • Licensed legal document preparer. Easily found with a quick Internet search, these trained professionals can make sure that your paperwork is filled out and filed correctly.
  • Attorney with experience in estate planning. This is always your best bet when you are creating a legal document as important as a will. A good lawyer can help identify situations that may become complicated–and help you avoid them.
  • Free workshops are offered regularly around the Valley. Workshops sponsored by Child and Family Resources are coming up March 16, 21 and 26. Contact Morgan Matchett at 520-320-4031 or mmatchett@cfraz.org for more information.