Intestate Succession in Arizona: The Importance of a Will

When we say a person died intestate, what we mean is that the person passed without a will. The laws determining property succession vary by state; Arizona has a number of specific guidelines dictating how an estate settles in the event someone dies intestate. Additionally, a number of assets do not fall under intestate succession guidelines. Finally, though not common, it is possible your property will pass to the state. This is extremely rare and only happens if a person dies without a single living relative, including siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins.

Cholewka Law’s experienced staff helps you navigate these confusing issues. We can also help you ensure your final wishes are met and your heirs provided for via comprehensive estate planning.

How are Your Assets Divided?

Generally, intestate beneficiaries are either your spouse or your closest living blood relatives. Distribution of property is as follows:
If you die intestate
They inherit
Married without children
Spouse inherits everything
Married with children conceived with that spouse
Spouse inherits everything
With children but no spouse
Children inherit everything
Married with children from a prior relationship
Spouse inherits half of your separate property but zero interest in your half of community property. Children inherit half of your separate property and your half of community property.
With living parents but no spouse or children
Parents inherit everything
With siblings but no children, spouse, or parents
Siblings inherit everything

How is Community Property Divided in Arizona?

For a woman who is not the primary breadwinner in a marriage, it is important that she understand her worth within the family and the home. Marriage is an economic partnership, and anything owned or acquired during the course of a marriage is subject to equal or equiatable division between the two spouses. Problems often arise when women allow their husbands to complete the financial planning, and are then economically paralyzed after a divorce. Women should not only take part in the financial planning, but also have their own estate plan in place.

What Does Your Spouse Receive?

The spousal share of your property depends on a couple of different factors, such as whether you owned your property as community property or separate property. Generally, property acquired during your marriage is community property. The exceptions are gifts and inheritances; even if acquired during the marriage, they are separate property if you kept them separate from community property.

Your spouse inherits your half of all community property, whether or not you have children with that spouse, except that if you have children from a different relationship, those descendants receive your half of community property. If property is owned with your spouse “with right of survivorship,” however, that property will pass to your spouse. Any separate property you own is divided the same way: either all to your spouse or shared among your spouse and any descendants not from that relationship.

Other Rules of Property Succession

Arizona provides further guidelines beyond determining beneficiaries when a person dies intestate.

  • Arizona’s survivorship period is 120 hours. This means your heir must outlive you by 120 hours in order to inherit.
  • Half-relatives inherit at the same rate as full-blooded relatives, meaning a sibling with whom you share only one parent receives the same share as siblings with whom you share both parents.
  • Beneficiaries entitled to an intestate share of your property need not be legal citizens of the United States.
  • Relatives conceived before your death but born after it inherit in the same way as if they had been born during your lifetime, as long as he or she survives 120 hours after birth.
  • There is no common law marriage in Arizona. A person is only considered a spouse if there is a valid, legal marriage.

What Property Does Not Fall Under the Intestate Umbrella?

The only property subject to intestate succession laws is property that must go through the probate process. Property that avoids probate includes assets titled in the name of a trust or that have a valid beneficiary form such as:

  • Retirement account funds, such as those in an IRA or 401(k) that have a designated beneficiary
  • Property transferred to a trust
  • Proceeds from life insurance that have a designated beneficiary
  • Payable-on-death (POD) or transfer-on-death (TOD) accounts
  • Real property that has a recorded Beneficiary Deed
  • Vehicle registrations that have a designated beneficiary
  • Joint tenancy or community property with right of survivorship

The Difference Between Will and Living Will

Despite the word “will,” a living will has nothing to do with how you choose to leave your assets when you die. Instead, a living will details your wishes regarding medical intervention in the event you face an end-of-life event such as terminal illness or traumatic injury leaving you in a persistent vegetative state or irreversible coma.

Solutions - Not Documents

Cholewka Law provides Estate Planning Solutions, not just boiler plate documents.

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