Estate Planning: Protect yourself and your loved ones from creditors and probate




Arranging for the disposition of your assets upon death is easy: so easy that most of it has already been taken care of for you by the State legislature. When you prepare a Last Will or a Living Trust, you're trying to replace the legislature's standardized plan with one of your own.


A Will typically specifies whom you want to serve as your Executor ("Personal Representative"), and whom you want to inherit your property. This makes things easier on your heirs by settling disagreements from those who might, in the legislature's eyes, "share priority" to be your Executor or get your money. A Trust is usually meant to accomplish the same thing, but without having to pass through a lengthy and expensive probate process.





It's very easy to prepare a Will or a Trust, which is why they can now be purchased in bulk online. It's also easy to fix your car's automatic transmission or perform home dental surgery. The difference with estate planning is that, when shoddy work is done, the victim has usually passed away before the problems get discovered. By then, the amateur mechanics and surgeons are nowhere to be found.


Choosing the right estate plan involves finding someone who will treat your life, your loved ones, and everything you've worked for with the protection and care they deserve. You should expect to have your questions answered in person, with time and detail, by the human being who is going to be crafting your plan--and not by a legion of "associates" or a block of preprinted text.



There is no shortage of estate plans out there, and no shortage of businesses trying to sell them. Unfortunately, many of these are being sold by people who don't even understand what it is they're selling. Consider the following quote:

"...just listen to audio testimonials on our References page. We will personalize one of our proven seminar promotions for your [law] practice and place it in the media to generate the highest response. We also provide a PowerPoint slide show, including complete script, so you'll know exactly what to do and what to say to motivate seminar attendees to line up for appointments after the seminar."*

This not-so-attractive inducement comes from one of the many marketing organizations that pitch their wares to both law firms and the non-lawyers who sell thousands of so-called "estate plans" without even truly understanding what they are trying to sell you. If you attend a "trust seminar" or "retirement seminar," you may find yourself barraged by pretty slide shows, overhead projectors, and canned responses to standard questions. The presenters--who may not even be lawyers, or know anything about estate planning beyond the information they bought off the internet--will recite what a marketing organization told them to say.


When it's time to put your own affairs in order, demand someone who will take the time to talk about the specifics of your life and your wishes. Don't accept your questions being dodged, or someone telling you to make yourself a number by filling in the blanks on a preprinted form. Most importantly, if someone is trying to tell you how Wills and Trusts will affect your legal rights, ask them, "Are you licensed to practice law in Arizona?"




"Some of my colleagues will tell me, 'There's no such thing as a simple estate plan,' but they're completely wrong--simple estate plans greatly outnumber detailed ones. The problem is, the simple ones are almost always woefully inadequate!


"Any experienced probate attorney has probably seen the same things I have: families torn apart over relatively small estates; angry children spending dozens of thousands of dollars arguing with more distant relatives whom no one thought would show up; and, uneducated mistakes causing...legitimate confusion over 'what Mom really wanted' and wasting assets in Court for years...


"That's why, after all this time, I'm still willing to argue that there are plenty of simple estate plans. In fact, there are too many of them, and they need to be fixed."

-Trevor S. Draegeth, Esq.