Fitzgibbons Law Offices - Casa Grande and Maricopa Lawyers

520-426-3824

 
 
 

Ann Schrooten, Casa Grande Estate Planning and Probate Attorney

 

Fitzgibbons Law Offices
1115 E. Cottonwood Lane
Suite 150
Casa Grande, AZ 85122

Golden Corridor Living

This article appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of Golden Corridor Living Magazine

Estate Planning

December 2016

Dying Without a Will or Trust, and the Laws of Intestate Succession

If you die without a Will, it’s possible – but not likely – that your estate assets will be transferred to the State of Arizona.

I often hear from my estate planning clients that they want to make a Will because they don’t want the State to get everything when they die. For most people who die “intestate,” that’s an unlikely outcome.

In Arizona, if you die without a Will, your estate assets will be distributed in accordance with the laws of “intestate succession.” Intestate succession applies only to assets that are not distributed pursuant to another method of transfer, such as beneficiary designation, “payable on death” or “transfer on death” accounts, joint tenancy with right of survivorship, community property with right of survivorship, and/or assets that are titled in the name of a Trust.

Under the laws of intestate succession, who gets your assets will generally depend on whether you are survived by a spouse, descendants (children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren), parents and/or siblings. For example:

•  If you are survived by a spouse and no descendants, your spouse will inherit all of your estate.

•  If you are survived by a spouse and descendants from the marriage, your spouse will inherit all of your estate.

•  If you are survived by a spouse and by descendants from you and someone other than your spouse, your spouse will inherit one-half of your separate property, and your descendants will inherit one-half of your separate property and the one-half of the community property that belonged to you.

•  If you are survived by descendants but no spouse, your descendants will inherit all of your estate.

•  If you die with no surviving spouse or descendants, your parents will inherit all of your estate.

•  If you die with no surviving spouse, descendants or parents, your siblings will inherit all of your estate.

•  If you die with no surviving spouse, descendants, parents or siblings, then your nieces and nephews will inherit all of your estate.

Only in the unlikely circumstances that you die without a Will and are not survived by any family members will your estate assets escheat to the State of Arizona.

The succession priority described above is by no means a substitute for an estate plan that is tailored to your situation and wishes. Vague instructions and off-the-shelf or incomplete Wills or Trusts are among the leading causes of messy probates, disputes and lawsuits among a decedent’s survivors, compounding their grief over the loss of a loved one and needlessly diverting estate assets to cover legal expenses.

The best way to make sure your assets will be distributed in accordance with your wishes upon your death is to have an estate plan in place, whether it be through a Will, beneficiary designation, survivorship designation, or a Trust, prepared by an experienced estate planning attorney.

More about Fitzgibbons Law Offices' estate planning and probate services