top of page


  • Am I too young to create an Estate Plan?
    Many people think of estate planning as a simple will. Estate planning is much more than that and should cover circumstances while you are alive and after death. Estate planning creates an advanced plan that provides directions on who you want to receive your belongings after you die. An estate plan should also provide direction on who you would want to make medical and financial decisions for you if you become incapacitated. If you have children, you may want to name a guardian for your children should something happen to you. Estate plans can also provide specialized instructions if you have a family member with special needs who you do not want to lose access to governmental benefits or a family member with a substance use problem who you may not want to receive a lump sum of money. You can also provide for a pet or support a cause that is important to you. An estate plan can provide peace on mind knowing you have a plan in place for your incapacity or death. Estate planning is also a great way to get all your important documents organized, correct titles to property, and ensure accurate beneficiary designations.
  • What is an Estate Plan?
    An estate plan is a plan that comprehensively covers a lot of contingencies beyond just who gets what. Who gets what is definitely an important question, but it's only one piece of the puzzle. Estate planning also covers incapacity and disability. Who is making sure that your bills are paid and your assets are being managed if you can't do that? Who is making medical decisions for you, and who can talk to your doctors just to find out how you're doing? An estate plan covers that piece as well. It also covers guardianship. If you are parents of a minor child, you want to make sure that you've got the short-term emergency situation covered, who can be with your children overnight or for a short period if you need help, and then also who would raise them. That is long-term or permanent guardianship. I mentioned an estate plan covers who gets what. You might use a will to say that. You might use a trust. Check out our FAQs on what is a will and what is a trust to learn more about those. But, the important thing to note is that an estate plan is a comprehensive plan. It covers a lot of pieces, from incapacity and disability to passing away to what happens long after that. If you have a child who needs assets, who would be in charge of assets for them until they're mature? What does that look like and how does that happen? You also do not want to forget the legacy component of estate planning. It cannot be underestimated. Your family is going to remember you by the videos you leave behind, by letters you write, not by the bland legal documents. We need the legal documents and they need to be excellently drafted, which I do However, I have found your family is really going to care about that last phone message, a video, a letter, or photographs. That is why the legacy component is just as important, in my opinion, as the legal documents. A comprehensive estate plan covers all of those aspects.
  • What is an Estate?
    An estate consists of everything you own including your house, car, checking and savings accounts, your life insurance policy, and your personal possessions including furniture, jewelry, pots and pans, and even your clothing. This means almost everyone has an estate. When you die, you cannot take these possessions with you. You likely want a say in who will receive your possessions and, if possible, you want to avoid court involvement in those decisions. Court involvement can result in an outcome you did not intend.
  • What is a Will?
    A will is a document that allows you to name three things: 1. Who you want your property and assets to go to 2. Who you want to name as the person in charge of making that happen, your personal representative, and 3. Who you want to be the guardian of any minor children Someone named in a will to receive your assets is called an heir or beneficiary, and the person put in charge of making that happen is called a personal representative or an executor. A common myth is that a will does not have to go through probate. People think that a will is a magical document that covers every estate planning scenario, and it doesn't. Before your personal representative is appointed and assets are distributed, a will has to be filed with probate court, reviewed, and approved. After this action, the personal representative can act on your behalf, gather your assets, pay any creditors who might be owed money, and then ultimately distribute the assets to your heirs. It is also important to note though that wills do not apply to assets where you have a surviving joint owner of that asset or to assets where you have a living beneficiary designated. For example, on retirement accounts and life insurance, if you have spouse named and then your children, then that asset will be payable directly to the living beneficiary who's named separate from what a will says. If you have a will, and a will is really critical for your estate plan, you need to make sure that it's in sync with everything owned jointly and also everything where you have a beneficiary named to make sure it all is working together according to your wishes.
  • Do I need more than a Will?
    The short answer is yes. A will says who gets what, but that's not the only question when it comes to estate planning. Estate planning covers you if you become incapacitated or disabled. You decide who is in charge of your assets and your medical decisions. If you have minor children, you need to decide who should care for them during that time, and then ultimately who would be raising them if something were to happen. So, you definitely need more than a will. Every adult in Arizona and any state needs a power of attorney for both financial and medical decision making. You need a living will, which determines what happens if you are on life support. A living will allows you to make end of life decisions ahead of time, as well as, a HIPAA release that allows you to indicate who you want doctors talk to, so that your family members and loved ones can know how you're doing. And you need all of that in addition to a will. Whether you need a will and a trust is a separate question, but definitely a will alone doesn't cover all of your estate planning needs. Also, if you are a parent of minors, you will want guardianship completely covered. Short term guardianship for an emergency situation and long term guardianship to indicate who you want to raise your children. At Murillo Law Firm, we also provide emergency wallet cards to make sure the information about your estate plan is immediately available in an emergency. We also provide a letter to your children and a letter to their guardian so that they know things you would want them to know if your children are very young or if a guardian would want some advice from you about how you want your child raised. Lastly, sharing your legacy is a great way to supplement a will to make sure that everyone knows your wishes, your values, and your stories which can be passed down to future generations.
  • What if I die without a Will?
    If you die with no will in place, state law fills in the gaps. You may also be have to go through probate court which can be a lengthy and complex process. State law dictates who gets what if you haven't clarified in a will who you want to receive your assets and property. State law tries to follow what they believe most people would choose. A surviving spouse is the primary heir, and then children after that. If there are no spouse or children living, then your parents would receive your estate. And then, ultimately your siblings, and nieces, and nephews, until someone is available to receive your estate. But it can get messy, if you have a blended family, or either you or the surviving spouse have children from a different relationship. The numbers get a little tricky, and are not 100%, or in equal shares. Even though Arizona law does fill in the gaps to make sure that people who are close to you receive your estate, it might be different from what you would want. It also doesn't clarify who is in charge of the assets left to a minor, or an incapacitated beneficiary. If you are in a long term relationship and not married, your significant other would not be entitled to anything. If you do not want state law to tell you how your assets are distributed, a will allows you to do that.
  • What is a Living Will?
    A living will is often confused with a last will which says, who gets what after you've passed. A living will applies while you're still alive if you are in a situation where you are terminally and irreversibly ill or injured and unable to communicate. For example, you are in an accident and placed on life support, your living will clarifies what you would want to happen for end of life decision making. Do you want life support to end, or would you want continued artificial nutrition and life support? The idea is that you've thought about it ahead of time. You've put it in writing so that way if your family does find that they're in that situation and are wanting to know what would want, then you clarified in your living will, what you want your family to do. And the nice thing about creating a living will is it helps avoid conflict if family members differ on what they think you would want. Once you put it in writing, then your family knows that's exactly what you would want.
  • Should I name my child as my beneficiary?
    We never recommend naming a minor child as a beneficiary of any asset, whether it's life insurance or retirement accounts, or any other type of asset. If you pass away and that asset or funds are payable to a minor child, that minor child legally becomes the owner but also legally cannot be in charge of that asset on their own. The probate court would have to step in and appoint someone to be in charge of that asset until your child reaches age 18. This means that someone other than you, a judge, is deciding who is in charge of an asset for that minor. As part of your estate plan, you can make that choice ahead of time, so you're not relying on what a judge would choose. If you name a minor child outright as a beneficiary, you are also leaving it up to chance that if something were to happen before that child reaches adulthood, then someone else, a stranger or a probate judge is deciding who is in charge of that asset, making decisions about how to invest those funds and ultimately, how to spend those funds on your children. If you leave it up to a judge to decide who is in charge until they're 18 or 21, and it's a significant amount of money; let's say it's a one million dollar life insurance policy, then you have potentially a young adult at age 18 getting all of that money handed over to them with no more adult oversight. A young adult might not be financially mature to have that much money at their disposal, and may end up using it in ways that you would have never wanted (i.e. a sports car, a get rich scheme). If you want that money preserved for their milestones in life like a wedding or purchasing a home, or going to grad school, you may want to consider a holding it in trust for your child. It is important to understand that naming a minor child as a beneficiary is normally not the best route to go.
  • What is a Trust?
    Think of a trust as a will-substitute. A will says who gets what, under what circumstances, and who's in charge of making that happen. A trust does the same thing. The critical difference between a will and a trust is that a will has to be filed with a probate court and reviewed and approved before anyone can act under it or receive any assets from your estate. In addition everything filed in the probate court, including the will, becomes a public record, and as you might imagine can take a considerable about of time to go through a public court proceeding. A trust, on the other hand, is a completely private document. No one's entitled to see it except those who are named in it, and the successor trustee named in your trust can act immediately. This happens without having to go to court, file anything, or get permission first. So a trust is a totally private document that can be more immediate and efficient upon someone's passing, whereas; a will is a public document once it's filed with the court, and the court has to review and approve it before anyone can act under it. A will and a trust are similar in terms of what they're trying to achieve, but they just go through a different process when someone actually needs to act. A trust is more efficient and private, a will takes a little bit longer and is public.
  • I heard trusts are only for the rich, is that true?
    You've probably heard people say that trusts are only for the rich or only if you have a net worth of X number of dollars or more. That is not the approach that we take at Murillo Law Firm. Instead what we do is we let the client decide, is a will the best route or is a trust the best route? For us, it's really about the quality of what your family's going to have to go through after your passing. If you leave a will and no trust, your family may have to go through probate court. If you utilize a trust instead, and everything is done properly, then your family can avoid the probate court and things can be much more immediate as well as kept private verses public in the case of a will. Helping a family understand the difference between the two documents and what steps a family may have to take down the road helps my clients figure out whether a trust is right for them. I never make a judgment call looking at my clients' assets to say, "Oh, that client doesn't need a trust." Or making the judgment call, "that client definitely needs a trust and that's all we are going to talk to them about." It's ultimately not up to me. It's up to my clients who I go to great lengths to educate about the differences between the two so that they can make informed decisions about what is best for them and their family.
  • Why you should not do a DIY Estate Plan?
    If you are thinking to yourself that you can do just as good a job as attorneys who do this everyday and full time, the first thing to know is it helps to know what can go wrong. As an attorney I have seen what can go wrong and plan for it. The most common feedback from clients and from those who attend my free talks and webinars is that they had to think through things that they hadn't even thought about before, and that they were really comforted in knowing that those questions were explored, and that those answers were ultimately put into their estate plans. An attorney is going to ensure everything is covered, and no stone goes unturned. DIY plans often provide a false sense of security leaving families in court and with a mess paying much more in fees than if they had planned with an estate attorney in the first place. Clients who come in for a review of a DIY plan often end up finding out they are missing essential elements to their estate plan or incorrectly completed a document. Many clients do not understand how the documents they have created even work. A fill in the blank, online document you found on Google or LegalZoom, and printed out likely does not account for everything that needs to be considered when drafting a comprehensive estate plan. Does it conform with legal requirements, did you apply Arizona law, and was it signed properly? Maybe you signed it, maybe you didn't, and you filed it away thinking that everything was taken care of. Estate planning is not just a matter of signing a document. Estate planning addresses your future, your children's future, and sharing your legacy which a fill in the blank document cannot accomplish. An attorney can be there to answer questions, guide you along the way, and ensure your plan will work when your family needs it most.
  • What is probate?
    You might hear or read that the point of estate planning is to avoid probate. Probate is simply filing a case through the court system. Every state has their own probate court system where a judge says who is in charge of an estate. In Arizona, the probate court and the judge is in charge of making sure that your assets go to the heirs who are legally entitled to them. The court system also makes sure that if someone, whether it's a minor child or incapacitated adult, has someone selected to be in charge of that person's assets, financial decision making, and medical decision making. Probate court is the state's plan for those without a plan. If you haven't done estate planning to avoid probate, you're leaving it up to a probate judge to figure out who's in charge of your finances if you're incapacitated, who's guardian of your children if something happens to you and you leave minor children, who's in charge of getting your assets gathered and inventoried and paying your creditors and, ultimately, distributing your estate to your heirs. A probate judge fills in all those gaps. Probate court is where your family members or loved ones have to go to help you settle your estate and they will be assigned a case number. It's just like any other legal proceeding in that court records are public and a judge is deciding things along the way. Probate can be avoided with a carefully drafted estate plan, where you sit down to put these things in writing ahead of time. If you do your estate planning online or do it yourself and missed a few key components or if you didn't do an estate plan at all, then probate court will be necessary to handle any areas your plan missed.
  • Should I avoid probate?
    This is a very client-specific question. At Murillo Law Firm, we don't take the approach that everyone has to avoid probate. We take the approach that we'd like to educate you about what probate is, how you can avoid it, and then, you, as a client, are deciding what is the best route to go. Probate is a court proceeding, so everything filed in court becomes a public record, which means things that were kept quiet such as who your heirs are and what they're receiving before you passed away now becomes public. This may be one reason you want to avoid probate. Another thing to consider is because probate is the court system, as you might expect, there are delays and it takes a while to get through the court system versus being able to act quickly and immediately. So if you decide you want to make sure that your family can act quickly and efficiently on your behalf and doesn't have to go to court first, you may want to avoid probate. If you want to keep your affairs private, then you definitely want to avoid probate. A will actually does not avoid probate. A will has to be filed in a court before it is legally effective and anyone can act on your behalf or your estate's behalf. If you decide probate and the fact that it's public and can take a long time is important to avoid, then I would recommend that you utilize a living trust as part of your plan. And check out our FAQs here on what is a living trust and what is will, because I go into a few more details. But if you decide that the court system is not ideal for your family, then you should avoid probate as part of your estate plan.
  • How long does Estate Planning take?
    The typical process takes about six to eight weeks start to finish after the initial Family Wealth Planning Session, and we can definitely expedite that if you're about to travel internationally, or if you're about to have a baby. But we do encourage you to start the process with a free educational estate planning talk. You get to learn about what to think about when it comes to estate planning in a group format and hopefully what we think is an entertaining way to teach you about estate planning and concerns. Then you'll come in for your first appointment. You'll meet with your attorney, you'll ask questions, we'll ask questions, and then you get to decide yes, no or not yet. Most people say yes, they would like to move forward, get their estate plan done, and get the peace of mind that their family's protected. We figure out the exact price of your plan at that meeting. You will come in about a month later for your signing, you'll sign all of the legal documents we've prepared, and your estate plan is fully in place at that time. At this meeting, we walk you through the next steps in funding your trust and/or ensuring all beneficiary designations are accurate. We follow ups to make sure you are working on this between meetings. Then you come in for your third meeting, we call it the binder delivery meeting, where you receive your finalized estate planning binder with the original estate plan documents. In this meeting we also focus on your insights, values, stories, and experiences you want captured for your family and loved ones to remember you by. We complete your legacy video at this final meeting and hope for our clients that it is the first of many videos that you'll do over time. We verify your trust is fully funded and your beneficiary designations are completed. That's the whole process, start to finish, six to eight weeks or of course, expedited as you might need to have that happen, so we look forward to meeting you and getting you through the process.
  • What are the biggest estate planning myths?
    There's actually two that I've run across. One is that a lot of people think a will covers every estate planning contingency. There is a thought that all you need is the will and you're good, and that's absolutely not true. A will doesn't cover what happens if you're incapacitated or disabled. This might surprise you, but a will has to go through the probate court, be filed with the court and lawsuit is actually commenced in order for a will to be effective. That is myth number one. Myth number two is that a lot of people believe that if they are incapacitated or disabled and they're married then their spouse can automatically and exclusively act for them. That's actually not true. Even though you're married, there is no presumption that your spouse has your best interest at heart and so your spouse would actually have to go to the probate court. If you're needing medical decisions and financial decisions made on your behalf, your spouse has to actually go to court just like anyone else would to act on your behalf, to get permission first from the probate judge. So, don't rely merely on the fact that you're married and expect that your spouse gets to do everything automatically for you, and don't rely on just a will to cover all of your estate planning concerns. Check out our other FAQs on What's a Will and Should I Avoid Probate because I go into more detail on why a will alone is not enough.
Disclaimer - The material on this website has been prepared and copyrighted by the law firm of Murillo Law Firm, PLLC. The material contained on this website is for informational purposes only and does not in any way constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship between you and any of the attorneys at Murillo Law Firm, PLLC. The information contained in this website cannot and is not meant to replace the advice of competent legal counsel licensed in your state.
bottom of page