Unfortunately, as we get older we are presented with many challenges and complications that we would rather not face.
Perhaps one of those is estate planning.
Worse than that, is being the executor of an estate that has had no thought put into the estate planning.
When put in the position of being the executor of an estate, I found that things went very smoothly due to the decedent have a living trust.
The terms of disposing of the assets of the estate, including property were very clear and the living trust avoided the necessity of probate court.
However, the assistance of an estate attorney assured that the process was handled legally and expeditiously.
Personal opinion says that anyone with an estate with over $50,000 in assets should have a living trust.
In the event that you do not have a living trust, the real estate of the decedent may avoid probate court by having the property held in different forms of title. Are you aware of how you hold title to your property? The deed to your property will delineate how you hold title to the property.
If you cannot find your deed, you can search for it online at the Gila County Recorder’s office: http://www.co.gila.az.us/recorder/default.html Click on “Recorded Document Search” and fill out the form.
This will provide you with an unofficial copy of the deed and other pertinent information associated with your property.
Mark Monty, chief title officer for our local Pioneer Title Agency, provided the three ways, other than a living trust, to hold title to real estate in Arizona and avoid probate court. They are;
Community Property with Right of Survivorship — Title is held by husband and wife where title vests in the surviving spouse immediately upon the death of the other.
Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship — A method of ownership between two or more people in which title transfers to the survivor(s) upon the death of any one of the owners. If a married couple chooses to take title in this fashion, they must specifically accept the joint tenancy of the deed to avoid the presumption of community property.
Beneficiary Deed — The Arizona Legislature authorized this type of deed for estate planning purposes. Upon the demise of the title holder, the property passes directly to the beneficiary and avoids probate court.
Planning for the inevitable is a gift to your heirs. As mentioned earlier, an estate attorney is of great assistance to an executor of an estate. An estate attorney should be contacted to assure that you are protecting all your legal rights and that your wishes can be carried out.
Ray Pugel is a designated broker for Coldwell Banker Bishop Realty. Contact him at (928) 474-2216.