A person who dies without a will is said to have died “intestate.” According to a 2016 Gallop poll, 56% of Americans don’t have a will, and that number is on the rise since 1990. You probably have healthcare coverage, property insurance, and life insurance policies to protect you “just in case” something happens. Death is inevitable, and if you die without a will, Arizona intestacy laws may control your estate. Creating an estate plan isn’t something you should put off.
Arizona Intestacy Laws
Wills aren’t about being rich or owning several properties. You need a will if you have family or friends you love. In Arizona, you must be 18 years old and “of sound mind” to have a will. It must be in writing. Although there are online DIY options, working with an attorney to create your legal document can give you peace of mind that it’s comprehensive and legally-sound.
Arizona intestacy laws are designed to protect your family as much as possible, but the court is the final authority on all decisions. Here are a few possible outcomes if you die without a will:
- Married, no children – Your spouse inherits everything.
- Unmarried, no children – Your parents inherit everything.
- Married, with children – Your spouse inherits everything.
- Married, with children from a previous relationship – Your spouse inherits half, and your children inherit the remainder, equally distributed.
- Unmarried, with children – Your children inherit everything, equally distributed.
- Unmarried, no children, no parents – Your siblings inherit everything, equally distributed.
The outcomes listed above are possibilities. If you want to have a say in how your assets are divided, you must create an estate plan.
Children and Intestacy
Dying without a will, in intestacy, can have a major impact on your children – both for the distribution of your assets as well as guardianship. Not all parent-child relationships are biological. Consider the following possibilities if you die without a will in Arizona:
- Any child born during your marriage is considered to be yours, unless contested, and will receive a share of your estate.
- Biological children adopted by your spouse will receive the same share as the children from your marriage.
- A child born outside of marriage requires the court to establish if they are your biological child. Then, the child may receive a share of the estate as decided by the court.
- Children legally adopted by another family will not receive a share of your estate.
- Foster children receive nothing, if not legally adopted.
- Legally adopted children receive the same share of your assets as biological children.
- Posthumous children conceived by you and born after your death will receive the same share of your estate as your other children.
- Stepchildren receive nothing, if not legally adopted.
While it’s never too early to create a will, one of the most common reasons young couples tackle estate planning is to specify legal guardians. The court may decide guardianship of your minor children if you die intestate in Arizona. The input of your family and friends will be considered by the court, which will then strive to make the best decision for your children’s welfare and future.
Now is Not Too Soon
Dying intestate can happen to anyone without a will. Musical icons Aretha Franklin and Prince both died intestate, leaving their families with an uncertain and complicated future while waiting for the estate to go through the court process. Whether you die unexpectedly or your health is slowly declining, you never know when your time is up. Creating an estate plan can’t wait!
Whether you’re swimming in money or barely making ends meet, an estate plan is a valuable tool for you and your loved ones. As your life changes, your estate plan should change with it and include updates to the documents you need.
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.