Establishing a last will and testament is an essential step in preparing for the allocation of your actual and personal property in the event of your death. Arizona wills enable the testator (the creator of the will) to provide for their spouse, children, or other loved ones, and even your pets after your death. You may also want to come up with a gift or bestowment to charitable organizations using your Arizona will.
Unlike a last will and testament, living wills provide instructions should you become incapacitated and incapable of making your own medical care decisions. This document would essentially take effect, in your lifetime, while a last will and testament will not. In Arizona, living wills are generally known as advance directives.
Do I Need a Last Will and Testament in Arizona?
Even though you may not need a last will and testament, but without one, state law (called laws of intestacy) will dictate the distribution of your assets and property when you die. Sometimes the outcome may not meet your wishes, that is why it is highly suggested that you create a will.
A last will and testament has a lot of purposes, but one of the benefits is that it gives the testator the option to determine who the estate executor will be. Making requirements for these decisions ahead of time gives the testator comfort knowing that their estate will be taken care of; and without a will, a court will determine who the executor of the estate will be.
In addition to the trusts that provide benefits for people, in Arizona, the law allows for creating a trust for the care of animals that are alive during the settlor’s life (“pet trust”); this type of trust is needed to be processed inside of 21 years or less and stops when no living animal is covered by the trust. An Arizona last will gives you the chance to care for your animals when you die.
A testator can use a will for various purposes, but the most important one is to convey how their property and assets should be allocated when they die. A testator also can designate a guardian for minor children using their last will and testament.
When the will is validated, the executor can then begin to pay off anything owed by the estate and then allocate the testator’s assets according to the will.
Arizona law provides for both informal and formal intestacy proceedings; the first one, allows the process to be carried out without the court getting involved (but does need the court’s approval). The second one is carried out when the validity of the will is questioned.
Intestacy: Dying Without a Will
When someone dies without a will, they are referred to as “intestate,” and the laws of intestacy start. In Arizona without a will, if the deceased is survived only by their spouse and having no children or by only a spouse and descendants who are additional descendants of the spouse, the spouse is entitled to all of it. Additionally, if the deceased is survived by only their children, without a spouse, the children are entitled to all of it.
Ability to Distribute Property Exceptions
Only property titled in your name at the time of death can be distributed in accordance with your Arizona will; mutually held properties with the right of survivorship, then, will not. Community property also passes to the surviving spouse.
Other types of restrictions on the ability to distribute property are included in the following:
Spousal Share: The share of an estate that a living spouse receives depends on both how the property was owned (individual or community) and which other family members of the deceased is survived by.
Homestead allowance: The deceased’s living spouse is entitled to a homestead allowance of $18,000. If there is not a living spouse, the minor, and dependent children of the deceased are granted an amount of $18,000 divided among the number of children, minor or dependent.
Property that is exempt: The deceased’s living spouse is entitled to a value not to surpass $7,000 in household furnishings, appliances, vehicles, and personal property. If there is not a living spouse, the deceased’s children are then entitled to divide the same value.
Form a Last Will in Arizona
Here are the basic requirements for an Arizona will:
- Capacity: The testator is required to be mentally sound.
- Age: The testator is required to be at least 18 years of age.
- Signature: The will needs to be signed by one of the following:
- The testator
- Another person in the testator’s name in the testator’s alert presence, by the testator’s dictation.
- Witnesses: The will is required to be signed by at least two people, who signed within an adequate time after witnessing the will being signed or the testator’s confirmation of the signatures or of the will itself.
- Beneficiaries: Arizona does not restrict to who the property can be left to in the last will.
- Writing: An Arizona will is required to be in writing for it to be authentic.
Changing Your Last Will and Testament in Arizona
An Arizona last will and testament can be changed at any time by another will or by codicil, a document that adds or alters the original; any type of changes need to follow the same parameters required of wills.
Other Last Wills in Arizona
In addition to the last will and testament as detailed above, Arizona also acknowledges the validity of a handwritten will (“holographic will”) as long as it was created by someone who is at least 18 years old and mentally sound and was signed by the testator. This type of handwritten will doesn’t need a witness.
Revoking an Arizona Last Will and Testament
The revocation of an Arizona will can be carried out in two ways:
By completing a revocatory act on the will if the testator performs the act with this intent or if another person performs the act in the testator’s mindful presence and by the testator’s instruction.
By executing a subsequent will that rescinds the previous will or part expressly or by discrepancies
A “revocatory act” can include “the burning, tearing, canceling, eradicating or destroying the will or any part of it.”
“Arizona Last Will and Testament.” Legalzoom.com, 15 July 2017, www.legalzoom.com/articles/arizona-last-will-and-testament.