Last week I discussed Estate Planning with my wife Billie Tarascio (who is also an Arizona Family Law Attorney). She spent a considerable amount of time understanding the related topics over the last six years professionally and had lots to share. Here are some of the things I learned that I didn’t know prior to our talk.
There are currently four documents that make up the basic Estate Plan. They are; (1) a Will, (2) a Durable Power of Attorney, (3) a Health Care Power of Attorney, and (4) a HIPPA Release Form. The HIPPA Release Form was an interesting addition that I had not thought of. It turns out, without that form (even with a Health Care Power of Attorney) you may not have access to the medical records necessary to carry out your duties as an Agent under the Health Care Power of Attorney.
I also learned, even if someone writes their wishes down in a Will regarding how they wish to be treated if they are sick or unable to make their own decisions, those wishes do not become effective until the Will becomes effective…which is after they have died.
Other tidbits of interesting information: every Will must be probated and a Will takes a minimum of five months to probate because that is the notice period allotted to creditors in Arizona. Finally, an Executor or Agent has fiduciary duties to the Principal (person who made the Estate Plan). If a Executor (under the Will) or Agent (under the Power of Attorney or Durable Health Care Power of Attorney) fails to act in the best interest of the Principal, they are subject to both civil and possibly criminal penalties.
Every families situation is different, but our Senior Advocates start most downsizing projects with an “Organization” phase to help the family pull these important documents together BEFORE we begin moving things around. Not knowing when the day or the hour that these documents will be needed and understanding the sensitivity of the conversations involved with drafting them, we are happy to recommend trusted Estate Planning professionals who can help our Clients cover the bases when it comes to handling these issues.