In Arizona, if a person dies without a will or a trust, their property passes to others by a process known as intestate succession. Arizona Revised Statute § 14-2103 sets forth the order in which a person’s property passes to relatives who aren’t a surviving spouse. If a person has a surviving spouse, property can be divided differently depending on whether a person had children, and whether or not some or all of those children, are children of the surviving spouse and the decedent.
Not all property is subject to intestate division however. Only property that would otherwise have been distributed from a persons will is subject to intestate succession laws. However there are some common assets which would not be subject to intestate succession laws that often surprise people. For example, life insurance proceeds, payable on death accounts, real property with survivorship rights or retirement accounts such as an IRA or 401(k) that designate beneficiaries. These are examples of assets that go to the person named, regardless of whether there is a will or not. So these common examples would not be subject to intestate succession laws.
As mentioned above, the passing of assets varies depending on what the decedent’s family looked like at their death. For instance, Arizona Revised Statute §14-2102 states that if there is a surviving spouse, the surviving spouse is entitled to either the whole estate (if all children are common to the surviving spouse and decedent or if there are no children). However, if there are children not common to the decedent and the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse gets their half of any community property but only half of the decedent’s personal property. And children of the decedent who were not children of the surviving spouse, receive the other half of the decedent’s separate property.
If there is no surviving spouse, the decedent’s property is distributed to any surviving relatives in the following order: To the decedent’s children; to the decedent’s parents equally if both survive or to the surviving parent; to the children of the decedent’s parents; to the decedent’s grandparents or to the descendants of grandparents. Whether the property goes to the paternal or maternal grandparents also depends on which of them are living at the time a person passes away. The above is a general outline and the entire text of Arizona Revised Statute § 14-2103 is actually quite lengthy and can be difficult to understand. If a person dies without a will and has no family, the property will escheat to the decedent’s state of domicile. In order for any of the above named to inherit under Arizona’s intestate succession statutes, that person must outlive the decedent for 120 hours.
Other Arizona statutes also provide for less common, yet very real, scenarios of half children, after born children, advancements of the estate during a person’s life, debts of a decedent and the parent child relationship as well as that of adopted children. However, as these are more specific topics this blog will stick to the general and more common scenarios of the surviving spouse and children as discussed above.
Making sense of Arizona’s intestacy laws can be very frustrating and confusing. If a loved one has passed away, and it is unclear whether or not there was a will, it is a good idea to seek the advice of an experienced attorney. Platt & Westby has offices in Phoenix, Arrowhead, Litchfield Park, Scottsdale and Gilbert Arizona. If you have questions about intestate succession contact our office by calling 602-277-4441 or www.plattwestby.com for a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.