Changing Your Estate Plan As Your Children Change

Why You Should Create Or Amend Your Estate Plan After The Birth Of a Baby

Our Arizona Estate Planning Attorneys take a look at the various ways that you can change your estate as the lives of your children change. Our proactive AZ estate planning lawyers believe in keeping with the times. The financial futures of your loved ones often are dependent upon decisions made in the estate planning process.

Introducing a new child into your family, whether through birth or adoption, will change your life forever. One of the biggest changes is that you will now be responsible- emotionally, physically, and financially- for a new human being. Having someone be so dependent on you can be a bit stressful, and you probably worry about what will happen to your child if something happens to you. That’s why even if you are young and in good health, you should probably create or amend your estate plan after adding a new child to your family.

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Will My Children Receive Anything If I Pass Away Without An Estate Plan?

Even if you aren’t considered “wealthy,” you probably have some possessions or money in your bank account that you’d like your children to receive when you die. You may be wondering what will happen to these items if you pass away without a will. This is known as dying intestate, so your estate will pass according to your state’s intestate succession laws.

In Arizona, your children will generally collect from your estate if you pass away without a will. If you are survived by a spouse, the estate will be split between the surviving spouse and descendants. But if you wish to customize how your estate is split between your children and any other loved ones you want to include, you will need to create a will and other estate planning documents. Using instruments like trusts can also help your beneficiaries get the most out of your estate, and reduce the amount of time it takes for your estate to pass through probate.

Amending Your Will Vs. Creating An Entirely New Will

If you have already created an estate plan, you may be wondering if some of your existing plan can be preserved after the addition of a new family member. A lot of this will depend on how your original estate plan is worded. Let’s say you left the contents of one of your bank accounts to “be split evenly among my children.” If you have a new child, this wording won’t exclude them from that provision in your will. But if you leave your bank account to “Billy and Susie,” a third child wouldn’t be included in this provision. Any omitted children may challenge a will that lists their siblings by name, creating additional expenses in attorney’s fees and other probate costs. The best way to know whether you can get away with a codicil, or a document that amends your will, rather than a complete estate plan overhaul, is by speaking with an Arizona estate planning attorney.

If you do change your estate plan as your children age, you will want to make sure any changes you made are executed properly. Otherwise, your changes could be invalidated in probate court, leaving either your original estate plan, or your estate to be distributed through intestate succession. One of your relatives may also succeed in a claim that they were intended to be included in the will. In Arizona, a codicil requires two witnesses, so most people find it easier to start over with a new will.

There are a few ways to effectively revoke, or cancel, your will in Arizona. When you create your new will, you can include a statement announcing your intention to revoke your previous will. Creating an inconsistent new will can also revoke your previous will, but a statement indicating your intention to revoke is the clearest way to do so. You can also revoke your will with a revocatory act- this can be tearing, burning, shredding, or destroying the will in any other way with the intent to revoke it. However, this leaves you without a valid will in place. Call to speak with one of our Arizona estate planning lawyers for additional information about will revocations and codicils.

Minor Child Guardianship

Most people know that you can use your last will and testament to leave your possessions to your friends and family members after you pass away. You can also use your will to designate who you would like to serve as the executor of your estate. But if you pass away while your children are still minors, or under the age of 18, one of the most important things you can do with your will is state who you would like to be the legal guardian of your children.

The impact of your will designation of your children’s guardianship will depend on your current custody status. If you are married to your children’s parent, a guardianship designation will only be used if your spouse has passed away as well. If you share joint custody with your children’s parent, they will usually get sole custody of the children if you pass away. But you should still designate who you would like to act as a legal guardian for your children in your place in case your children end up in a worst-case scenario.

You should think very carefully about whom you want to list as the potential guardian for your children in your will. Ideally, you will choose someone who is caring and responsible. You should always check with your preferred guardian before listing them in your will, and be prepared to update your will if that person ever experiences major family or health changes. You should also list an alternate guardian in case your first choice becomes unable to fulfill their responsibilities before you are able to update your estate plan.

Changes To Your Estate Plan As Your Kids Get Older

Changing your estate plan once a child is born might not be enough to make sure that your estate’s transfer upon your death is as efficient as possible. As your children age, you will be able to identify exactly what would help them the most in life, from a financial standpoint. For example, if your child is diagnosed with an illness or disability, you may want to establish a trust to fund their medical expenses in the future. Or if your child dreams to be a doctor or lawyer, you may want to establish an educational fund to help pay for medical or law school. On the reverse side, you may become estranged from a child and wish to reduce or eliminate their share from your estate. An estate planning attorney can help you figure out how to best provide for your children’s specific needs.

Expert Guidance To Get the Most Out Of Your Estate

Navigating various state laws and different estate planning instruments can be complicated. It takes years of education and experience to learn to identify all the advantages and pitfalls that are possible for an Arizona estate. Your estate plan could be weaker against disputes and challenges in probate court, or may fail to be validated altogether. Your estate could end up being eaten up by attorney’s fees, court costs, and taxes that could have been avoided. It could take several months, or even years, for the probate process to be completed. But you can help your family avoid these types of struggles by creating a strategic estate plan.

Create your strategic plan with our estate planning attorneys and team will guide you through every step of the process, so you can rest easy knowing that your loved ones will be provided for after your passing.  You never know when a tragedy may strike, injury accidents happen without notice.  Make sure your loved ones are set for a future without you.   To get started, call (480) 448-9800 to schedule your free consultation today.



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