What Happens if You Pass Away Without a Will?

A common misconception many Arizonans have is that those who pass away without a Last Will and Testament (or any other estate planning documents of their own) have no estate plan at all. That’s not entirely true; the state actually has a one-size-fits-all estate plan for those without a Will. If you pass away without one, your estate is subject to Arizona’s intestacy laws. We’ll lay out what you need to understand about these laws in this blog. 

Arizona Superior Court

Probate matters in Arizona are handled in Superior Court. There are a handful of ways to handle the disposition of an estate; for example, estates valued at less than $75,000 can go through a simplified process. Even larger estates can spend less time in probate if the decedent took certain steps, like naming an executor for the estate or making a self-proved Will.  It’s unlikely for an estate with no Will to be part of a quick process, unfortunately. 

Arizona Intestate Succession

Once a personal representative has been named, creditors have been notified, and final debts have been paid, the assets left over in an estate with no Will must go to beneficiaries as mandated by state law. This is Arizona’s best guess at how you would want your assets distributed after you pass away: 

  • If you pass away with a living spouse and/or children you had with your spouse: Your spouse gets everything. 
  • If you pass away with living children and no spouse: Your children receive everything. 
  • If you pass away with a living spouse and children from another marriage or relationship: Your spouse and children split your property. 

You should note that this only applies to separate property titled in your name (and your name only). Assets such as bank accounts with payable-on-death designations or property in a trust pass outside of probate court. Another issue is sorting out what’s marital property and separate property. Arizona is one of nine states with a presumption that marital property (most property gained by either spouse during marriage) should be split 50/50 in divorce or death. This can make asset distributions quite complicated. 

Monahan Law Firm Can Help

We understand how overwhelming probate matters can be — especially in the immediate aftermath of a loved one’s death. Our firm has experience efficiently handling a wide variety of probate matters. We also help Arizonans with estate planning strategies to take care of their loved ones and provide everyone with a sense of security. Reach out to our legal team today to set up a consultation.

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