When someone dies, we talk about them having died “testate” or “intestate.” If a person dies “testate” that means that they had a will. If they die “intestate,” they died without a will. Why does it matter?
Because if you die without a will, the law decides which one of your relatives will get your property.
First, it is important to understand that only property that you could have passed on through your Will, will be affected by the intestacy laws. That means that any property in which you have named a certain person (your spouse, sibling, friend, child etc.) as a beneficiary will go to that person whether you have a will or not.
Some examples of such property include:
- property you’ve transferred to a living trust
- life insurance proceeds
- funds in an IRA, 401(k), or other retirement account
- securities held in a transfer-on-death account.
For other property, however, who gets what if you die without a will depends on their relationship to you.
In Arizona, where we practice, if you die without a will, property subject to the intestacy laws passes to your closest relatives under our state’s “intestate succession” laws. Briefly, that means that:
- If you die with children but no spouse, your children get everything.
- If you die with a spouse but no children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren, your spouse will get everything.
- If you are a father who dies having children born outside of marriage, they will not receive a share unless the court has declared you that child’s father.
- If you die with parents, but no spouse, siblings or decedents, your parents will get everything.
- If you die with siblings but no spouse, descendants, or parents, your siblings will get everything.
Plenty of thorny issues pop up where the intestacy laws are concerned. The intestacy laws affect whether adopted children can inherit (they do if legally adopted) or whether grandchildren can inherit (not if their parent is still alive), and more.
We believe it is always best to make your own decisions about who should get your property and not leave it up to chance or to the state of Arizona to decide. That is why we believe everyone should have a will.
We Can Answer All Your Questions.
If you have questions about intestacy, or estate planning, call us. We are experienced trusts and estates counsel in Arizona. Our offices are in beautiful Sedona, but we serve all of Arizona. We offer free consultations, and we can answer all your questions and help you. Call us at 928-282-1483, connect with us on Twitter or send us an e-mail.