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Phoenix Real Estate Law Blog

Don't neglect your digital assets in your estate plan

Creating an effective estate plan in 2017 means making sure that you account for your digital assets as well as your other, more tangible assets. This means making sure that your executor and the administrator of your estate plan have access to your online accounts and have the authority to make decisions about them in accordance with your wishes.

Let's say you pass away and leave detailed instructions about how you wish for you executor to distribute your estate. If you have not prepared properly, your executor may be unable to fulfill his or her duties because he or she cannot access all of your accounts. These days, many financial services deal primarily in online asset management, and may not allow your executor access to your assets if he or she does not have your login information.

Tuscon clashes with university over zoning issues

Zoning laws create many interesting challenges for every party who plans to build or expand a structure. Often, when we think of zoning issues, we envision a real estate developer fighting to build a certain number of units on a parcel, or a business working to expand while acknowledging the restrictions of the area where they are located. Recently, however, a much larger institution came under fire for threatening zoning laws.

The University of Arizona received a letter from the Tucson City Council regarding its plans to expand its housing capabilities by building a 1,000 person dormitory, which it hopes to have operational by 2018. The letter strongly recommended that the university abide by city zoning regulations as it moves forward with the project. Among other things, all parties hope to avoid losing time and resources in a replay of a conflict they already endured previously.

Why would I challenge a will?

There are a number of valid reasons why you might choose to challenge a will, but there are steps you should always take first before making this move. Challenging a will is often a lengthy process and almost certainly holds the potential to strain personal relationships between you and other interested parties. Before you choose to challenge a will, be sure that you seek proper legal counsel to examine the nuances of your situation and identify elements of the law that may support your claims.

If you are a person of standing to the will, you probably have the ability to challenge it. Without proper legal standing, even if you have a seemingly legitimate reason to challenge a will, the court is not likely to allow it. Legal standing requirements create a barrier to keep people who should not be challenging a will from doing so.

Dealing with zoning issues in Phoenix

Zoning laws and regulations control the ways in which a property owner can use his or her property. When considering a property purchase or development project, informing yourself of applicable zoning regulations can save you financial loss in the future.

Many properties may be subject to more than one set of regulations. In addition to city and county rules, you may need to deal with particular area or neighborhood restrictions. Sometimes, historical or environmental regulations may restrict uses of or activities on the land in question.

Protect your building project with strong contracts

When you hire a contractor for a building project, whether you are remodeling a home or building something from the ground up, there are many ways that each party's expectations may not align with the finished product. In many cases, the project may run off the rails long before reaching completion, leaving one party facing costs or difficulties they did not expect.

It is always important to come to any building project with strong contracts that clearly define the responsibilities of each party and the remedies for various conflicts that might arise.

Creating a will reduces family conflict

It is never pleasant to dwell on your own possible death, but it is necessary if you want to protect the ones you love from potential conflicts after you pass away. Even those who are relatively young and in good health have issues to consider if they own any property and don't want their loved ones to fight over it if and when they pass away. If you want to reduce the risk of conflicts between your loved ones in the wake of your death, you absolutely need to create a will.

Few things are as destructive to a family or community as infighting over the property of a deceased loved one. Even if you do not own a great deal of property, you must still determine recipients of those things when you pass. Otherwise, you leave the process up to the state, which has no understanding of your family or your community.

Joint tenancy or tenancy in common between spouses

Buying a piece of real estate is more expensive than ever in some circumstances, and more and more couples are choosing to buy property jointly than ever before. Buying property jointly allows you and your spouse or partner to use both of your incomes to qualify for a mortgage, and it also entails executing the title to the property in one of two ways — under joint tenancy or tenancy in common.

In most cases, executing the title under joint tenancy or tenancy in common does not have any serious differences. However, if one of you passes away before the other, the form of tenancy you choose can greatly impact the transfer of the property after death.

Does my executor need assistance?

When you name an executor to your estate, you are shouldering an individual, or possibly several individuals, with a number of very serious responsibilities. No one should take the position of an executor lightly, and anyone creating an estate plan should provide reasonable resources and assistance to their executor to ensure that all the relevant duties can actually be carried out.

Essentially, your executor makes sure that the details of your will or estate plan are followed according to your wishes, oversees the process of distributing the estate to your beneficiaries, and maintains your estate until the process is complete.

Proposed historic overlay causes landowner problems

Zoning laws can cause great headaches if a landowner does not properly deal with them in a timely manner. Of course, in some cases, maintaining the right to do what you want with your own property is a fight in and of itself - even when you think you've prepared properly. This struggle recently came into focus for a Phoenix landowner after the Phoenix Historic Preservation Commission moved to rezone a structure with a historic preservation zoning overlay.

The issue has two understandable sides, and there is no clear "right" party. On the side of the historic preservationists, the building in question is one of only about 20 buildings built in the 19th century that are still standing in Phoenix. It is reasonable to see how that lends the structure a certain degree of innate value, even though the building itself is in exceptionally poor repair.

Should I pay my deceased family member's credit card debt?

Handling the estate of a loved one as an executor is a great privilege and responsibility, but that doesn't mean that it will be easy. The process can become exceptionally difficult if the estate in question has a significant amount of credit card debt. When it comes to credit card debt, the law actually provides survivors of a debtor some surprising options.

In broad strokes, credit card debt does not have to be paid by the family of a debtor who passes away, although there are some exceptions. In reality, however, the creditors are never going to volunteer that information! It is very likely that the creditors or third party collectors will be very insistent that the survivors are responsible and must pay it back, yesterday if possible. Still, under the law, paying credit card debt on behalf of a deceased debtor is generally voluntary.

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