When you are browsing through the art galleries in Uptown Sedona, do you ever stop to wonder, if you buy that stunning original artwork, knowing your husband is going to absolutely kill you when he finds out how much it cost, what would happen to it if you die without a will?
It is a question worth thinking about.
The Laws of Intestacy.
If you do not have a will when you die, that is called dying “intestate.”
If you die intestate, any assets that you own alone, in your own name, will pass on to your relatives according to Arizona’s intestate succession laws.
Other assets that you either co-own with your spouse, or are transferrable on death, or are in a trust, or have a beneficiary assigned to them (like an IRA, or 401K, or insurance) are not affected by the intestate laws.
But who gets what of your solely-owned property when you die intestate can get pretty complicated. That is why it is best to consult with experienced trusts and estates attorneys and have a Legacy Estate Plan designed for you, or, at the very least, a will.
Very briefly, how your property is distributed under the intestacy laws depends on whether or not you are married (and/or were married before), have living children, parents, or other close relatives when you die.
Here is something to think about: if you do not already have a will and you have descendants (children, grandchildren, great grandchildren) from a previous marriage, your half of any property that you hold with your current spouse as “community property [property acquired during marriage] with right of survivorship,” will not go to your children, grandchildren or great grandchildren, but will automatically go to your current spouse.
Also, if you were married before and have stepchildren, even if you love them dearly and want them to get your half of your community property (without survivorship rights) or your separate property, unless you legally adopted them, they cannot inherit from you without a last will and testament that allows for such an inheritance.
These are just two points to think about with regard to intestate succession. There is a lot more to know about intestacy and many more reasons why you do not want to have your estate distributed through the intestate succession laws.
Do you have Questions? Speak with a Trusts & Estates Attorney!
If you want to make sure your treasured property goes to the ones you love, contact us.
We are experienced trusts and estates attorneys. We offer free consultations and we serve all of Arizona. We can help you provide and plan for your loved ones. Call us at 928-282-1483 or you can reach us by email here.