Wills and Living Wills Article

Staying in Charge of Your Future

You can only stay in charge of your future affairs if you plan ahead. Tax laws allow you to build a retirement nest egg in special tax-deferred accounts. The law allows you to prepare written instructions regarding medical treatment in case you become incapacitated. It allows you to appoint someone to make decisions for you if it ever becomes necessary. And it allows you to decide who will inherit your property someday. But the right to have your wishes carried out later is worthless unless you act now - while you still can.

Decide now who you want to help you in case you become disabled. Meet with an estate planning attorney to review your goals and wishes. The attorney can prepare powers of attorney for you to sign that handle health, mental health, and/or financial matters.

The financial power of attorney can be effective now or upon disability. The health power of attorney allows the agent to act when you are unable to communicate your wishes. The mental health power of attorney allows an agent to act once a doctor has determined that you are unable to make your own mental health decisions.

Make sure that you understand all of the terms before signing a power of attorney. Be absolutely certain that your chosen agent is both capable and trustworthy. Despite your trust and thinking it cannot happen to you, there are cases of family members stealing.

If someone’s address has changed, DO NOT write on the document. Simply note it on a separate page called “contact information.”

All powers of attorney are void at death. Powers of attorney can also be revoked. If your agent needs to start acting for you, you may want to record your financial power of attorney in your county recorder’s office.

The attorney can customize the paperwork so that the following issues are addressed:

  1. Who is to make decisions if you cannot (please list 2 or 3)
  2. Who you do not ever want to make decisions if you cannot (only if appropriate)
  3. Is the agent able to act alone or does the agent have a co-agent; if co-agent, can either act or do they both have to agree
  4. What powers you are giving your agent/fiduciary
  5. What powers you are NOT giving your agent/fiduciary
  6. What you DO or DO NOT want regarding your care
  7. Who has authority to pay your bills and expenses
  8. Whether you want your agent/fiduciary to be paid for services rendered and/or costs incurred
  9. Statement of your goals/wishes/values

Be careful when deciding who you want to name as your agent. Make sure your agent realizes there can be criminal and civil penalties for abuse of the power of attorney. If you have a power of attorney and realize that money has been stolen from you by your agent, please call Adult Protective Service and/or the police. Consider revoking that power of attorney.

Go over all gifts that you want to make to your agent with your advisor(s). Please realize that unless you specifically allow gifting, your agent cannot make gifts on your behalf.

If you choose not to sign powers of attorney and then become disabled, someone will need to ask the Court to become Guardian (makes decisions regarding the person) and /or Conservator (decisions about assets) on your behalf.

You can also make choices on organ donation and autopsy. You may want to pre-arrange final arrangements to authorize cremation so that no one has to sign after your death (especially if your heirs are not in agreement with cremation or could be hard to reach).

Make sure the paperwork is properly executed (sign in front of witnesses and notary public as appropriate).

DO NOT add someone as joint tenant to your account if you want someone to be able to help you write checks; instead name them as power of attorney on your account. This way there is accountability by the agent and the agent must spend the money on your behalf. There have been problems of misuse by the joint owner and problems when the joint owner is sued.



  • My parents have passed away and in their Trust and Wills I am listed as their representative. What do I have to do in order to sell their properties?
  • What makes a Will valid in the state of Arizona
  • My mother passed away 5 weeks ago. She didn't have a will. My sister and I both were on a few bank accounts for wells fargo of hers but not on her IRA account and a US bank account. My mom had no debt, no house, no cars just these bank accounts. I need help, do I get a lawyer? I am unsure of how much the IRA is I am pretty sure it is under 75,000 but what if it isn't? Do you have advise of what type of lawyer to get.. any recommendations?
  • Our former estate lawyer failed to pay for 'records storage' (among which were our wills and trust) and now that we need them because we need to update our trust, the company won't release them to us. How can we get the company to release our papers? We are willing to pay an access fee.
  • My daughter was raised by her deceased father for her 10 years he died and now the family has disowned her.they were involved until he died.there is a possibility that he is not the father but he didn't ever acknowledge that isn't there a law that allows him to be known as her father and her the aires to estate .she knows no diffrent
  • My grandfather is 91 and not expected to live much longer. He has a house valued at 60K but he owes 50K on it. The house is deeded to "the trust of..." Who gets the house upon his death and also, who is responsible for maintaining the payments? I am the executor of his will and current POA for him but there is no special provision regarding real estate. He does have a trust set up and we only have the "abstract of trust" that states who the trustee is upon his death.
  • When a person passes away are the outstanging debts,like credit cards passed on to their adult children?
  • Both of my parents have passed away leaving their small estate in a trust. I am the executor of the trust. The estate is small and fall within the dollar limits of real estate and personal property within the estate, where probate proceedings are not required. My question is; to complete the estate, do I need to To complete the estate, so I need to place a “Notice to Creditors” in a newspaper as described in A.R.S. 14-3801? (There are no known creditors).
  • How do I go about preparing and recording a beneficiary deed for my mother's home which is now solely in her name? She wishes to leave her property to my siblings and myself upon her death.
  • My father recently died ( he was 92 yrs) He lived in Iowa and was in a Nursing home.He was a US Veteran, I was the rep Payee for his checking account, his only daughter, and his VA fiduary, only one to make his funeral arrangements and pay the mortuary. He had no will, do I need to file formal estate paperwork and all other documents since I am his heir ? I do not have the money to file.


  • He told me that I could actually get all the money I needed by using my home as collateral. . .
  • He told me that I could actually get all the money I needed by using my home as collateral. . .
  • I just helped my mother, age 89, deal with her Medicare HMO. . .




  • Please select your county of residence below.



  • State Bar of Arizona
  • Maricopa County Bar
    Referral number 602-257-4434
  • Pima County Bar
    Referral number 520-623-4625
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline
  • Bankruptcy Court Self Help Center
  • Certified Legal Document Preparer Program