Understanding how wills work

Arizona property owners who do not already have an estate plan may want to start thinking about how to pass their property on after they pass away. If a person holds a joint tenancy with a right of survivorship and only one owner dies, the other owner will take full possession of the property. However, if both owners die, or if the property does not have a right of survivorship, then a will or trust may be necessary to pass the house along to a specific person.

One drawback of a will is that it needs to go through probate court before assets in the will can be distributed. Once in probate court, certain individuals will have an opportunity to contest the will and say that it is not valid or that it should not be enforced as written. These individuals include people who were owed money by the asset holder at the time of that person’s death. These creditors may be entitled to repayment before anyone else can be paid. Family members and people named in the will may also challenge it.

Why avoid probate if possible

Probate court can be costly and take months or even years to complete. If someone files probate litigation to contest a will, the litigation will likely drag the process out even longer. One way to avoid probate court is to create a living trust. Assets and property in a living trust can be passed on to beneficiaries without going through probate court. Assets given to a minor beneficiary can also be kept in the trust until that beneficiary comes of age.

Individuals who want to learn more about living trusts or other estate planning vehicles may want to consult with an estate planning attorney. Besides ensuring that assets are given to the right person, estate planning can have other benefits, such as with taxes.