DYING WITHOUT A WILL OR TRUST, AND THE LAWS OF INTESTATE SUCCESSION by Ann F. Schrooten, Fitzgibbons Law Offices
n Arizona, if you die without a Will, your estate assets will be distributed in accordance with the laws of “intestate succession.” Intestate succession applies only to assets that are not distributed pursuant to another method of transfer, such as beneficiary designation, “payable on death” or “transfer on death” accounts, joint tenancy with right of survivorship, community property with right of sur vivorship, and/or assets that are titled in the name of a Trust. If you die intestate, who gets your assets will generally depend on whether you are survived by a spouse, descendants, parents and/or siblings. For example: • If you are sur vived by a spouse and no descendants, your spouse will inherit all of your estate. • If you are sur vived by a spouse and descendants from the marriage, your spouse will inherit all of your estate. • If you are sur vived by a spouse and by descendants from you and someone other than your spouse, your spouse will inherit one-half of your separate property, and your descendants will inherit one-half of your separate property and the onehalf of the community property that belonged to you. • If you are survived by de-
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scendants but no spouse, your descendants will inherit all of your estate. • If you die with no surviving spouse or descendants, your parents will inherit all of your estate. • If you die with no surviving spouse, descendants or parents, your siblings will inherit all of your estate. • If you die with no sur viving spouse, descendants, parents or siblings, then your nieces and nephews will inherit all of your estate. Only if you die without a Will and are not survived by family will your assets go to the State. The succession priority described above is not a substitute for an estate plan tailored to your wishes. Vague instructions and incomplete Wills or Trusts are leading causes of messy probates and family lawsuits. The best way to make sure your assets will be distributed in accordance with your wishes is to have an estate plan in place, whether it be through a Will, beneficiary designation, survivorship designation, or a Trust, prepared by an experienced estate planning attorney. Ann Schrooten is an estate planning and probate attorney at the Fitzgibbons Law Offices in Casa Grande (520-426-3824).
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