As a lawyer helping people with estate planning at Morris Hall for over six years, I’m still often surprised by the challenges that pop up when someone leaves us without a plan for their possessions. This situation is more common than you’d think and it often affects those they leave behind in unexpected ways. It really drives home how it is in securing your legacy for future generations.
When someone passes away without a plan for their estate, it’s what we call dying “intestate”. It means they didn’t leave any instructions about who should get their belongings. Because of this, the Probate Court has to follow the law, which is found under Title 14 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, to decide who gets what. The court doesn’t consider personal things like whether a family member was close to the person who passed away or not. It can be a confusing process, especially for the loved ones left behind.
Imagine a widow who passes away two years after her husband. Under the law, only her relatives could potentially receive her assets, not her late husband’s relatives. This is because at the time of her death, she was the one who owned the assets. It’s a situation I’ve seen many times and it often leaves families feeling upset and bewildered.
This is one of the many reasons why we strongly encourage everyone to plan ahead. It’s always heartbreaking when something bad happens to our clients. But it’s even harder to see when something bad happens to someone who isn’t our client because they didn’t prepare. By planning ahead, you can help your loved ones avoid these complicated situations and ensure your wishes are honored after you’re gone.
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