By Libby Banks, The Law Office of Libby Banks, PLLC

Valentine’s Day is here again, and we may have given our loved ones the usual gifts – roses, chocolates, or a lovely dinner out. Valentine’s Day gifts let our spouse and family know just how dear they are to us.

Another way to show our family we care is to get a Will or Trust in place. Many of my clients come to put a plan in place after a stressful and difficult time handling the estate of a parent, sibling or other loved one who didn’t plan ahead. Going through the exhausting process of a probate court proceeding has shown them just how important an estate plan is to the family.

A proper estate plan makes it much easier on your loved ones if you become incapacitated and when you are no longer here. Without a proper estate plan, you may leave a gigantic mess. Your family will have an expensive and time-consuming ordeal ahead of them, and worse, they may end up fighting.

Having a proper plan means you avoid some of these big mistakes:

Not having a plan: This seems obvious, but it is the number one mistake made by 60 percent of Arizonans. If you don’t have a plan, don’t worry. The state of Arizona has one for you, but it may not be what you want. Put your own plan in place instead. You need a plan if you have children, you own a home, you have other assets or you own a business. A plan tailored to you will save your family heartache and money.

Putting a do-it-yourself plan in place or using a non-expert: Sometimes we need to call in experts. We don’t know what we don’t know. We wouldn’t perform our own surgery, and it’s wise to hire a lawyer for your estate plan as well. An attorney who focuses on estate planning knows the ins and outs of the law and can suggest provisions for your plan that you don’t even know about. If you don’t use an attorney and make a serious mistake, it may be too late when your family finds out.

Keeping your “older-than-the-hills” estate plan: Good for you if you did a Will when your children were born, but if they now have their own children, it is time to update your plan. If your assets have grown, you may want to consider a trust, and rethink how you are leaving your assets to your heirs. Laws changed in Arizona in 2008, and estate taxes have changed over the years and continue to change. It is important to keep your plan current.

If you are ready to show your love with an estate plan, you can call my office for a complimentary initial consultation or review of your existing plan at 602-375-6752, visit my website at, or e-mail me at [email protected].