Kristel K. Patton

Kristel K. Patton, attorney and counselor at law puts together a binder of all the documents a client needs for estate planning. Patton’s clients leave her office with a large binder containing all their original documents. They have a program set in place to review the documents every few years. Allison Hurtado/AFN

Death isn’t a topic most people like to talk about but planning ahead can make the subject a little more comfortable.

Kristel Patton, attorney and counselor at law in south Tempe, has had her own estate planning law firm for about three years. She helps people through the process of understanding what needs to be done to prepare for the future, no matter what stage her clients are currently at.

“I had always wanted to be in estate planning but I saw a problem where people were just given cookie cutter documents,” Patton said. “Estate planning is wills, trusts, power of attorney and those kinds of things. It’s a very transactional process but that seemed to be all it was, was people signing documents. I didn’t really like that. I wanted to build relationships with our clients and really support them on a long-term basis.”

Patton spends hours with her clients drawing out a plan that is specific for them. At the end of a long process they walk away with a thick binder full of very specific plans for their future.

For those who have not begun planning for the future Patton offers a bit of advice.

Plan early

Even families with young kids can begin planning for emergencies now. If both parents pass away what is the plan for the children?

“It’s important when you have the opportunity to plan for yourself that you do it,” Patton said. “If they don’t have a plan for their kids the court is going to get involved. The person you would have wanted may not end up being their guardian. Who’s the right person to be the guardian? Who’s the right person to handle the money? That’s not always the same person.”

Plan for disability

When most people think of estate planning they assume it means death. Not always, says Patton. Documents created by an estate planning attorney can ensure the type of care a person will receive in case of a disability.

Things like pets, community and church involvement, and activity level can all be outlined well before any kind of disability, dementia or Alzheimer’s sets in.

Patton says she once heard of a woman who included in her plan that she wanted a glass of bourbon before bed every night – and she got it.

Think about remarriage protection

During the planning process it’s important to consider if one spouse should pass away before the other. If one spouse passes away and the other gets remarried protection can be built into a plan to make sure the new spouse does not drain the accounts. This kind of protection can be built in so beneficiaries, usually children, are always taken care of.

Take time

Patton warns that estate planning is a very touchy subject. Not every family is a happy family so plans need to be detailed and verified. It’s important to take the time to ask personal questions about your family. Should all assets be divided evenly or not? Who is the most responsible?

Once the tough decisions are made there’s a lot of paperwork involved. Patton suggests carefully going over the paperwork and verifying that it is all completed correctly.

If loved ones are left to battle out the differences later on they could go to court and the legal battle could be paid for out of the estate. A clear and precise plan can save a lot of time and money.

There are many other issues Patton says she runs into with families each day but it always depends on the family. Her policy is caring, counseling and getting it done properly.

For more information on Patton, visit or call (480) 855-8383.

For more information on estate planning, visit the National Network of Estate Planning Attorney’s website at

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or

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