Consequences of Dying Intestate in Arizona

consequences of dying intestateGood estate planning has to be focused and timely. Procrastination can have disastrous consequences for your heirs, which is why you have to determine how assets are going to be handled upon your death as early as possible.

A common question Arizona residents have is what would happen if they don’t have a will at the time of their death. While Arizona has provisions for a default will, it’s obviously not the best and the most personalized choice.

Arizona Intestacy Succession Laws

The rules of intestate succession are defined in Arizona Revised Statutes 14-2101.

Intestate succession applies solely to the assets that would have been included in your will. In most cases, these will be passed either to a surviving spouse or children. Whenever a person does not have a surviving spouse or children, a close relative is typically the one that will inherit the assets affected by intestate succession.

If there is no single person found that could potentially inherit the property, it would go to the state.

The law also pinpoints a few complicated scenarios in which it wouldn’t be immediately clear who is going to inherit assets. Here are a few of these situations:

  • Whenever a person is survived by a spouse and children who aren’t the children of the surviving spouse, the spouse will inherit separate property (50 percent) while the children will inherit the other half and the community property of the deceased spouse.
  • Whenever a person is survived by no spouse and no children, their parents will most often inherit everything.
  • Whenever a person is survived by no spouse, no children and no parents but they have siblings, the siblings will inherit everything.
  • If there are no siblings, parents, spouses or children but nieces and nephews, they will inherit everything.

What Will Be Inherited?

When you fail creating a will before passing, you will also have to understand the scope of assets your heirs will get.

If you pass and you have debt at the time of your death, this debt will have a profound impact on the assets you’re leaving behind. Whenever the value of debt exceeds the value of probate estate, the estate will become insolvent.

Whenever an asset has a beneficiary named on it or it is jointly owned (for example, by you and your spouse), a probate process will not have to be initiated. These are the so-called non-probate assets and they could come in the form of a life insurance or retirement accounts.

In all other cases, a personal representative for the estate will be responsible for the manner in which assets will be distributed among relatives. A surviving child could petition the court for the role of a personal representative. The personal representative will be responsible for distributing assets equally among everyone.

Needless to say, the mechanism can lead to huge quarrels and misunderstandings.

If surviving family members cannot come to an agreement about the manner in which assets are going to be divided, they could initiate lawsuits against each other. The court will be responsible for the final decision but this process comes with legal fees, hurt feelings and a lot of wasted time. While the process is ongoing, the value of the estate could also be reduced exponentially.

A final problem to consider is unintended inheritance. When you don’t have a will, assets could be inherited by someone you had issues with. This may be a person that you don’t want to leave anything to but based on Arizona regulations, they will qualify as an heir.

To avoid complications, it would be best to consult an Arizona attorney and draft a will. This simple document will give you peace of mind that your assets will be distributed among heirs in the best possible way.  Click here for more information on probate and estate administration in Arizona.