Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

The following questions are common estate planning questions.  The answers are not specific to anyone’s particular situation, and may differ depending on the facts.  Please contact us for legal advice specific to your situation.  The following does not constitute legal advice, but rather general information for the public.

Q: What should I do if I recently lost a loved one?

A:  Please see the attached checklist for the loss of a family member.  Not all items may apply in your situation, but the list will help you get organized. See Survivor Check List

Q: If I have a last will & testament, does my family have to put my estate through probate?

A:  If a will is all that you have and if your assets total $75,000 or more, Arizona law requires that your family put your estate through probate, which is a time-consuming and costly process.

Q: What is probate anyway?

A:   Probate is a legal proceeding required when someone passes away with no estate plan or with a will only (no trust) and assets over $75,000.  The process is lengthy and expensive, and can be avoided with simple estate planning.

Q: How large can my estate be before my heirs are subject to estate tax?

A:   In 2016, your estate is tax exempt up to $5,450,000.  Some states impose an estate tax, however Arizona does not have one at the present time.  IRS information on estate taxation can be found at https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/whats-new-estate-and-gift-tax.

Q: If my son or daughter is over 18 years old and has a medical emergency where they become incapacitated, can I receive medical information about them?

A:  The answer depends on the circumstances.  Many health care providers are reluctant to share information without a waiver.  The US Department of Health & Human Services website provides useful information on the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”).  They can protect themselves from such a situation through a simple medical power of attorney.

Q: What happens if I don’t have a will?

A:  Everyone has an estate plan.  If you have not completed an estate plan, the government fills in estate planning provisions for you.  The Arizona statute can be found at Arizona Revised Statute Chapter 14 section 2101 et seq.  http://www.azleg.state.az.us/ArizonaRevisedStatutes.asp?Title=14

Q: What happens to minor children if their parents are in an accident and are incapable of decision-making?

A:  If the parents have not designated guardians, the children will be taken into custody and a court will appoint a guardian based on the court’s opinion of what is in the children’s best interest.  If the parents have appointed guardians, the children go to the appointed guardians and absent a challenge, can avoid the judicial procedure.

Copyright © 2016 Desmond Law. All Rights Reserved