Legal advice. We’ve all needed it at one point in our lives, and the complexity of the law often requires a professional to take the reigns.

The wonderful attorneys at Gillespie, Shields, Durrant & Goldfarb in Phoenix addressed some of the common questions they get asked for our readers in this new series of weekly articles.

Gillespie, Shields, Durrant & Goldfarb are proud sponsors of SmartFem  

Wayne H. Taylor is an attorney specializing in trusts, estate matters and probate litigation. He’s been at Gillespie, Shields, Durrant & Goldfarb for over six years.

Taylor explains everyone needs an estate plan because it’s essential to have in the case of disability or death.

When it comes to the actual planning, the appropriate legal documents are drafted which include naming powers of attorney for mental healthcare, physical healthcare, property, and a living will and trust.

In certain cases families will find they have to go to probate court. In Arizona, if the total value of an individual’s assets is under $75,000 probate is not needed, and the assets can be obtained using a state affidavit.

“If you have assets over $75,000 you’re typically required to go through probate,” Taylor said.

Naming beneficiaries on bank accounts, life insurance policies, investments and stocks, or having joint bank accounts can be one way to help avoid probate court.

However, situations can always arise that may require going through probate, Taylor said, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Family situations may cause the need for the court to intervene and oversee what’s happening.

Taylor always recommends anyone who finds they must head to court consult with and use an attorney.

“If someone is not familiar with the statues of the law then they’re at a disadvantage,” Taylor said.

In some cases an individual may find they have been appointed as a personal representative, and in that instance the court will ask that training is completed to ensure the individual is properly equipped to take on the job.

“Your training consists of reading a manual that describes your duties and explains what you’re required to do.”

There are also training modules that can be completed online through the Arizona Supreme Court to ensure a personal representative is aware of their responsibilities.

The most difficult probate to deal with is when there is family conflict and an abuse of monies or property.

Taylor always recommends that families lay everything out on the table to show no evidence of hiding assets. As long as family members can work together, the process is usually fairly easy to get through.

One mistake Taylor does see often that he advises against regards the proper use of trusts.

“If you do have a trust one of the important things is that you keep it funded,” Taylor said. “That’s the No. 1 way trusts don’t work is when people create it but don’t put assets in it.”

Once a trust and estate plan is created they don’t require much maintenance unless you choose to make changes to beneficiaries, for example.

“I recommend people look over their trusts every 3 to 5 years,” Taylor said, just to make sure no changes are needed.

So when should someone start to think about creating a trust or estate plan? Once you start a family it’s best to start thinking about creating the proper documents.

Plans for guardianship, for example, is good to have if children are involved.

Working with experienced attorneys like Taylor makes the process easy and painless. Interested in creating an estate plan or trust? Contact Wayne H. Taylor at Gillespie, Shields, Durrant & Goldfarb today.