If you don’t have a plan, or a well drafted plan, the state you live in could be making decisions for you.
Clients sometimes express a concern that the State of Arizona not end up with their property after they die. This can sometimes happen but it is unusual. ARS §14-2105 provides that the State of Arizona takes only where no other person is qualified to claim an estate. More frequently, however, the State of Arizona determines who gets your property and who takes care of you—without consultation with you or consideration of your wishes. This can happen in several ways:
- If you do not have a Will. Where there is no Will or other estate plan document such as a Living Trust, Arizona law decides who gets your property and who will handle the probate of your estate. Arizona’s Intestate Succession statutes are found at ARS§ 14-2101 et. seq. These statutes determine who gets the property of a decedent if there is no Will or other estate planning document.
- If you enter into a marriage. A marriage can partially revoke an estate plan entered into prior to marriage so that a new spouse is not unintentionally disinherited. ARS§ 14-2301
- If you omit to mention all your children. The existence of an omitted child can alter or revoke the provisions of an estate plan. ARS§ 14-2302
- If you divorce. A divorce revokes all probate or non-probate transfers including estate planning provisions, terminates a nomination of the former spouse as Personal Representative, Trustee, Agent, Conservator, Guardian or other Fiduciary. It also severs Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship ownership of property and transforms it into a tenancy in common. ARS§ 14-2804
Some of these problems can be planned for and eliminated by careful drafting of estate planning documents. Others need to be addressed by drafting new documents. As a general rule, whenever there is a major life change, it is a good idea to review your estate planning documents with your attorney. This will make sure that your wishes will be honored at the time of your death and that your estate will be administered by a person you trust.