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Written by Michelle N. Ogborne

Estate Planning Basics – Where to Start

Property ownership, relationships, and lifestyle changes are what life’s all about. When compared with the Kardashians, you may not feel your modest assets deserve mention in a will or a trust fund for the kids. But even if you don’t own a Caribbean island or a fleet of collectible cars, you need to understand estate planning basics.

Estate Planning Basics: What Do You Want?

You need estate planning because everything in your life has value. But for many people, death and dying is an emotional subject, especially when you’ve recently married or had a child. What you want to avoid is drama. If you understand estate planning basics, you’ll know why you should make provisions for your valued property – financial and nostalgic – by acting now. Estate plans are especially appropriate:

  • After marriage
  • Before marriage
  • During divorce
  • Following a child’s birth
  • Upon the death of one or both parents
  • When you are facing health issues
  • When you realize you are not immortal

What Are the Estate Planning Basics?


Wills are documents in which you appoint a guardian for your children, a conservator to manage your children’s assets, and a representative to handle your money and property (your “estate”) following your death. In Arizona, a will may be valid if:

  • You are over the age of 18.
  • You are of sound mind and understand you are distributing assets to family and friends (beneficiaries).
  • The will is in writing.
  • The will is signed and witnessed.

Holographic Wills in Arizona

If the will is hand-written and signed (a “holographic” will) it is acceptable in Arizona. Holographic wills are probably most subject to be legally challenged. Even if a will meets legal requirements, holographic wills are “a bad idea,” says Estate Planning Specialist Eric Holk. “One of the most common problems with holographic wills is ambiguity. The intended meaning may have been clear to the testator (writer), but those who are reading the will can be left with great confusion.”

One man’s holographic will left everything to “Mother,” without identifying the person by name. The man’s mother survived him. So did his wife, whom he affectionately called “Mother” ever since their child was born. Which of these women was intended to receive his estate?

Living Wills

This document states how you want your body and your life managed if you can no longer make decisions for yourself. The other way to call it is “an advanced directive.”


This is a financial document that gives a third party (called the “trustee”) a directive to manage the distribution of your financial assets to your beneficiaries.

Our 5-Step Estate Planning Process

You want to do what’s best for your family, especially your children, so estate planning basics should be discussed as soon as possible. Estate planning is like insurance, and you should regularly review and change it when necessary. You can engage another family member to join you when you understand estate planning basics and are ready to act. Here’s the 5-step process the Ogborne Law estate planning professionals will employ:

  1. Assess – Let’s discuss your family dynamics and evaluate your assets. What are your goals? What are your concerns?
  2. Plan – We create an initial estate plan that incorporates your goals for your family and addresses your concerns.
  3. Review – You’ll review and edit documents, and we’ll make required changes.
  4. Implementation – When the documents are exactly as you wish, you will sign-off.
  5. Check-up – So many changes can occur in just one year! Tax time is a good time to review your estate planning documents and update.

Protect Yourself, Your Property, Your Loved Ones

Schedule your free estate planning consultation today. We’ve served the Phoenix/Scottsdale area for 10 years and, as a result, our reputation for integrity and trust is notable among our clients and other Arizona law firms! At our first meeting, we’ll discuss your needs and offer our professional advice. Contact Ogborne Law if you have any questions about:

  • Alternative dispute resolution
  • Business law
  • Collaborative divorce
  • Estate planning
  • Family law
  • Marital agreements
  • Mediation
  • Trusts, and wills