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Tucson Happenings Monthly Legal Talk: Elder Law & Estate Planning Articles

Ron Zack, RN, JD

About the Author:
Ronald Zack is a partner at Udall Law, Tucson Office. His legal focus is Elder Law and Estate Planning. You can write him directly at rzack@udalllaw.com.

NOTE: The information contained in these articles is provided for informational and educational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. Ronald Zack provides legal advice and other services only to persons or entities with which he has established a formal attorney-client relationship.



  Legal Talk January Legal Talk: H.E.L.P is Now Available

By Ronald Zack


Hospice Education and Legal Partnership, Inc. (H.E.L.P.) is an Arizona nonprofit corporation and a 501(c)(3) organization. In addition to patients with life-limiting illness, family members, caretakers, and other persons associated with the provision of medical, social, spiritual, or health care services to the patient are eligible for related pro-bono or affordable legal services from H.E.L.P.. Patients and families need not be on a hospice service to receive legal services. They may be receiving palliative care services, or aggressive treatment. Anyone dealing with a terminal illness, and meeting income guidelines, is likely eligible for service. Our generous and compassionate volunteer attorneys provide most services, but we also have volunteer document preparers, paralegals, fiduciaries, and mobile notaries. All volunteers receive special training to help prepare them to work with these clients.

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  Legal Talk December Legal Talk: A Hastened Death

By Ronald Zack


There is some tension in the law between the right to refuse treatment, often referred to as a right of self-determination, and laws regarding suicide, assisted suicide, and the state’s interest in preserving life. - Read what Ron thinks about it.

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  Legal Talk November Legal Talk: Does Estate Planning Confuse You?

By Ronald Zack


A recent survey found 74% of respondents felt estate planning was a confusing topic. I recently heard an estate planning attorney tell other estate planning attorneys something to the effect of “Clients want certainty and simplicity, but our practice is based on uncertainty and complexity.” That reality translates to confusion for everyone. Please note, however, attorneys do not create uncertainty or complexity by choice. Uncertainty is built into the system and some degree of complexity is necessary to deal with uncertainty. What do I mean?

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  Legal Talk October Legal Talk: Estate Planning: Yes, you too.

By Ronald Zack


Young couples (and single parents) often tell me they don’t need a will. For one thing, they feel nothing will “happen to them.” “Happen” is a euphemism for death. Death, many think, is only for old people. Think again. Unfortunately, we never know when tragedy will strike. And when and if it does, what happens to your minor children?

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  Legal Talk Mental Health Care Power of Attorney

By Ronald Zack


Lately, there has been a push for people to have that ‘conversation’ regarding their inevitable death with their family or friends. Discussing and planning your end of life care in advance definitely has its advantages to not only you, but also your family. Over the years, I have assisted many people design their estate plan and power of attorney documents. While many clients come to me with their wishes for end of life care, they often have not considered the possibility of living in a state where they are just not capable of making decisions for themselves. This is just as vitally important to discuss as an end of life care plan, because it can happen well before the end of life.

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  Legal Talk An Ounce of Prevention

By Ronald Zack


I help people plan for disability, dementia, and death. This is my description of estate planning. Probably the bulk of estate planning is preparing wills, trusts, and powers of attorney. But it also involves other types of planning and requires a hard look at how assets are held, what the titles and deeds to property say, what insurance policies do you have and need, how beneficiary designations are worded, and a variety of other topics. It is important to note estate planning does not just involve what happens when you die. Perhaps more importantly, good estate planning deals with what happens when you are alive and disabled, incapacitated, or demented.

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  Legal Talk The Death with Dignity Myth

By Ronald Zack


Some say assisted-suicide laws open a new avenue for abuse of vulnerable adults. Many people think the assisted suicide laws in the four states provide sufficient safeguards against abuse. Who would argue with competent people, who are terminally ill, suffering from intractable pain, giving themselves a doctor-prescribed overdose to end their suffering?

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  Legal Talk Estate planning: One Out Of 386

By Ronald Zack


This last session of the Arizona Legislature resulted in passage of 386 new laws being sent to the Governor for signature. In their rush to get to their vacation, the last day of the session lasted 18 hours, running through over 100 bills. Most have already been signed into law. In my humble opinion most of the new laws passed are unnecessary.

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  Legal Talk Estate planning: Access to Justice

By Ronald Zack


The phrase Access to Justice has become a popular call in legal circles. This is, in fact, a national initiative to make legal services more accessible to those who cannot afford to pay attorney fees. Interestingly, this effort includes making the court system more user friendly so self-represented people can navigate through it without having to hire an attorney.

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  Legal Talk National Healthcare Decisions Day

By Ronald Zack


April 16th is NHDD or National Healthcare Decisions Day. For the past several years, individuals and organizations across the country have encouraged the use of the traditional day after tax day to focus attention on planning for end-of-life care. The mission statement includes the goal to inspire, educate and empower the public and providers about the importance of advance care planning.

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  Legal Talk Estate Planning Myths, Missteps, and Mess Ups

By Ronald Zack


Over the years, I have encountered a number of situations, after the death of a loved one, that have resulted in significant expense, aggravation, and frustration, all of which could have been easily avoided. Often these situations arise due to misunderstanding, misinterpretation, and efforts to cut corners on planning in an effort to save money. Here are just a few examples:

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  Legal Talk Transfer by Affidavit for Small Estates

By Ronald Zack


I've written before about ways to avoid probate with and without a trust. There are many ways to do this. I have also written about times when probate is unavoidable or maybe even advisable. Now, however, I am going to discuss transferring property, after death in cases where there has been no planning, or when some property has been left out of planning.

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  Legal Talk Estate planning:
    How Much Does It Cost and What Do You Get?"

By Ronald Zack


Legal fees are expensive. In fact, the cost of legal services can be prohibitively expensive. That fact leads people to deceptively inexpensive alternatives such as do-it-yourself forms or using online discount products. Unfortunately, cutting corners often leads to even higher legal fees as incomplete or vague work can lead to even more expensive litigation. All too often, the inexpensive, corner-cutting alternatives do not consider distinctions in local law and nuances that can make big differences. In estate planning particularly, one-size-fits-all plans often lead to frightening and expensive unintended consequences.

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  Legal Talk Estate planning: Choose Your Team

By Ronald Zack


Estate planning is a team effort. Actually, there are two teams – the team that creates the plan and the team that implements the plan. Usually, there is considerable overlap between the two. I will begin with a description of the implementation team.


The implementation team consists of you, your attorney, your financial planner, possibly your banker, and all of the “helpers” named in your documents, such as the personal representative (executor), successor trustee (if you have a trust), your health care agent, and your financial power of attorney. These are the people who will make sure the plan is put into operation at the time it is needed. While you are alive and well, you will remain in charge and coordinate any team members necessary, often with advice of counsel.

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  Legal Talk Careful Where You Die

By Ronald Zack


In addition to federal estate tax worries, be aware of taxes imposed by individual states on estates or on inheritance. There is a difference. An estate tax is imposed on the value of your estate when you die. On the other hand, an inheritance tax is imposed on property you leave to a particular individual. Although constantly changing, it appears that in 2016 18 states and the District of Columbia, will have either an estate tax, an inheritance tax, or both. And in most cases, the exemption amount is far less than the federal estate tax exemption.

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  Legal Talk The Truth about Trusts

By Ronald Zack


It seems many companies are advertising in newspapers or sending out mailers warning of the perils of probate. They warn that your survivors are likely to be required to pay huge fees, and that your assets will be eaten up by the cost and expense of probate. Here's the Truth about Trusts...

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  Legal Talk Do You Have An Estate Plan For Your Facebook Account (And Other Digital Assets)?

By Ronald Zack


In response to many of their account holder’s families, Facebook announced it has a new feature that allows users to designate what Facebook calls a Legacy Contact for their Facebook accounts. What this means is you can now directly let Facebook know who will be in control of your account after you die. It is a way, though, to turn your Timeline into a memorial. You can also let Facebook know if you want your account to be permanently deleted after your death just by adjusting your account settings.

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  Legal Talk The Perils of Being an Agent

By Ronald Zack


What if you find yourself acting as someone’s agent under a financial power of attorney? Or if you assume the responsibilities as a personal representative (executor) or as a successor trustee? In all three of these roles, you have fiduciary duties prescribed by the law. You can now also have very serious criminal and civil penalties for breaching those duties. Although I rarely see the penalties invoked, for a variety of reasons, I do often see large amounts of money expended in legal fees defending or prosecuting breaches of fiduciary duties. This article (chapter) will address the duties that apply to all three of these roles – agent under a power of attorney, personal representative in a will, or successor trustee of a trust.

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  Legal Talk Hospice, Supporting the Terminally Ill and Their Loved Ones

By Ronald Zack


Hospice, as practiced in the United States, is more than a philosophy designed to support physical, psychosocial and spiritual needs of terminally ill patients and their families and significant others, it is a business. According to Medicare, "Hospice is a special way of caring for people who are terminally ill, and for their family. This care includes physical care and counseling. Hospice care is given by a public agency or private company approved by Medicare. It is for all age groups, including children, adults, and the elderly during their final stages of life. The goal of hospice is to care for you and your family, not to cure your illness."

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  Legal Talk Library Fires and Ethical Wills

By Ronald Zack


There are actually three types of documents referred to as “wills.”  First, is the will of inheritance, often known as the Last Will and Testament.  This will is designed to be effective upon death, and its primary purpose is to direct the final administration of the dead person’s estate and the distribution of their property.  The second type is the Living Will.  The Living Will is usually a statement of what type of care a person wants when they are ill and cannot express their wishes themselves.  The third type of will is the lesser known Ethical Will.  The Ethical Will is a document that is used to communicate values, beliefs, hopes for the future, advice, life lessons, forgiveness, love, and often personal history. 

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  Legal Talk Choosing Your Successor Trustee Agents

By Ronald Zack


People often struggle with the decision of who should be placed in positions of authority in their estate planning documents. In fact, not knowing who to choose for these key roles is one reason people often put off their estate planning. There are three or four major roles that must be filled as part of your estate plan. Each of these roles gives individuals or entities a great deal of power and responsibility over your person and/or your estate. The major positions are successor trustee, personal representative, financial power of attorney, and health care agent. A successor trustee is needed if you have a trust. Any type of estate plan requires powers of attorney and a personal representative, trust or not. 

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Ron Zack, a long time writer for Tucson Happenings, has published a book. If you are interested, click the cover below.
A Legal Guide to Growing Older: Planning for Disability, Dementia, & Death
by Ronald Zack (Author)

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