Every state has laws that govern what happens to your property when you die. But if you want to decide what happens, you need a last will and testament. This document lays out your choices for your property, your money, and your children. It gives you control to help your loved ones and gives you peace of mind.
Your will must follow specific rules to be valid. Plenty of do-it-yourself programs let you create one, but they don’t always fit your needs. Work with an experienced lawyer to set up a last will and testament that does.
Why You Need a Last Will and Testament
Not all property has to go through probate. If you have community property with your spouse and that person is still alive, it goes to him or her. If you set up trusts or other arrangements, those skip the process too. But anything else in your name without a contract directing it goes into probate.
Arizona’s intestacy statute provides for distribution of property. But if you want to leave specific property to someone, the last will and testament must provide for that. It also lets you decide who should take care of your kids if you name a guardian. In fact, it’s the only way to name guardians in the state of Arizona. Any specific wishes, or any additional gift you want to leave someone, also requires a will.
In addition to not leaving it to the state, a will lets you name an executor. This is someone you trust who will carry out your wishes.
Finally, if you want to leave someone out of your inheritance, you need a last will and testament to do that. It may face challenges, but your wishes come first. Once you establish your will legally, you can have your wishes carried out.
Arizona Legal Requirements
You must be 18 and of sound mind to have a valid will. Some states allow oral wills. In Arizona, though, you must have a written document. That can be a handwritten note (a “holographic” will), but usually, you prepare a formal last will and testament. You must be 18 or older and of sound mind, for it to be valid. You also have to sign it; unless it is a holographic will, you need two witness signatures as well.
All of these rules are designed to protect you. Arizona does not limit whom you can leave money to in your will. So to make sure it represents your wishes, the signatures help confirm it does so.
Proving the Will
When you die, your executor must take your last will and testament to court to prove the will. If no one will fight the will, it goes through an informal hearing. The court still approves the will, but otherwise does not get involved.
If someone contests, though, they must formally prove the will. This can include testimony and arguments about what you meant, what you really wanted, or whether you were of sound mind. The court listens to arguments and decides whether it was valid.
The more carefully you follow the law to prepare your will, the less difficult this hearing. Courts do not want to disregard your wishes. If you follow the process correctly, your last will and testament will carry the day.
If you want to learn more about preparing your last will and testament, contact Ogborne Law today. We will help you understand what you need and give you the experienced legal help to get it done.
Engaging with an attorney to protect your family is never an easy step. Whether you need to protect your family from the unthinkable or restructure your family through collaborative divorce, we’re here to help. When you’re ready to schedule a consultation with Michelle Ogborne, please visit the scheduling page to get started.