Ask any adult in Arizona, and they may likely tell you that they have yet to begin the estate planning process. Indeed, statistics show that a majority of American adults do not have a will. This may make you feel somewhat better about not yet addressing your own estate issues.
Your reasons may differ from those of others, yet many share the fear of offending their potential beneficiaries with their estate plans. This may lead you to think you might avoid this by not creating a will at all (thus leaving the dispersal of your estate up to your beneficiaries). Yet if you die intestate (without a will), the state (not your heirs) claims control of your estate’s administration.
Understanding intestate succession
The regulations detailing Arizona’s intestate succession policies begin in Section 14-2102 of Arizona’s Revised Statutes. Here the law states that your surviving spouse stands to receive your entire intestate estate if you have no surviving issue (direct lineal descendants) or the issue you leave behind is also the issue of your spouse. If you have an issue that is not also the issue of your spouse, your spouse’s interest in your intestate estate reduces to one-half (with the other half going to your issue).
If you leave no spouse behind, then your intestate estate passes in the following order:
- To your descendants
- To your parents
- To your siblings (and/or their descendants)
- To your paternal and maternal kindred
Passing assets on to non-relatives
You likely noticed that no allowances exist for anyone not directly related to you. Yet you may want such a party (e.g., a friend, colleague, charitable organization or your alma mater) to benefit from your estate. If so, you must detail that wish in a will.