What Happens if a Person Dies Without a Will in Arizona

In Arizona, if you die without a will, your estate assets may be distributed in accordance with the laws of “intestate succession.”A.R.S14-2103.   However, 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.  In short, in many cases many valuable assets may not be affected by intestate succession laws.  More specific examples can be the following:

  • Life insurance proceeds
  • Vehicle(s) held by transfer-on death registration
  • Fund in an IRA 401(k) or other retirement account
  • Property you transferred to a living trust
  • Payable on death bank accounts
  • Or property owned by the decedent in a joint tenancy or as community property with right of survivorship.

If a person dies and his or her property is not covered by one or more of the above designations, it may be distributed by intestate succession.

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. More specifically:

  • 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.

It is still most prudent to meet with a qualified Arizona estate planning attorney and systematically go through your holdings and expected transfers on death.

Failing to do so can result in a great deal of anxiety for your intended beneficiaries and can result in expensive and needless litigation.

If you need assistance in evaluating your situation or determining the best plan to implement a good estate plan, give us a call at the Law Offices of William D. Black at 602 265-2600 or email us and we will be happy to provide a free consultation regarding your situation and how we may help.

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