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What Happens if I Die Without an Estate Plan?

When a person dies, their assets must be distributed. If a person fails to create a will or trust, their property will pass via the state laws of intestate succession. Every state has a specific set of laws providing a sort of default will.  For example, if a person dies without an estate plan in Arizona, the probate court will first determine whether the decedent was married.   Arizona is a community property state, so there are two kinds of property a married decedent passes when they die: their separate property and a one-half interest in the couple’s community property.  Below is a “nutshell” version of where a person’s property goes when they die with no estate plan:

  • If the decedent was married and had no surviving descendants all of the decedent’s property passes to the surviving spouse.
  • If the decedent was married and had surviving descendants who are all descendants of the surviving spouse, all of the decedent’s property passes to the surviving spouse.
  • If the decedent was married and had surviving descendants, one or more of whom are not descendants of the surviving spouse, one half of the decedent’s separate property will pass to the surviving spouse and one half of the separate property and decedent’s entire one half interest in the community property passes to the decedent’s descendants.
  • If the decedent was not married, or if the decedent’s spouse predeceased him or her, the property will go to the decedent’s descendants. Under the statutes, property is distributed per capita at each generation level.  This means that the shares of the decedent’s property to be passed are determined by the number of descendants at each generational level.
  • If the decedent was not married and didn’t have any descendants, then his or her property goes to surviving parents. If both of parents are surviving, then each parent takes equally. If only one parent is surviving then all property goes to the surviving parent. If no parents are surviving, property passes to the decedent’s parents’ descendants per capita at each generation.
  • If a decedent has no surviving descendant, parent, or descendant of a parent, the property will pass to surviving grandparents, if any, or the grandparents’ descendants. If no one is qualified to claim the property under any of the scenarios listed, the property will pass to the State of Arizona.

This “nutshell” version of the Arizona laws of intestate succession is a very brief overview and does not address the many complexities present in blended and non-traditional families.  The outcome in many cases is not consistent with what the decedent would have wanted.  Creating a proper estate plan ensures that  property passes to whom you want, how you want.  Take the first step- contact a Morris Hall attorney today.

andrea-claus  Contributed by Morris Hall, PLLC Phoenix and Prescott Estate Planning Attorney, Andrea L. Claus.

Why Choose Morris Hall, PLLC:
You have a number of options when it comes to estate planning, so why pick Morris Hall?  First off, estate planning and asset protection are a very complicated endeavor and you should only trust someone who focuses exclusively on those matters.  Also, Morris Hall is a proud member of The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys (AAEPA) which provides us additional support, advanced training, tools and information that is not available to others – which means that we can better protect your assets and your loved ones.  We are one of only three firms in Arizona that belong to the AAEPA and are the only firm in New Mexico that has been granted membership.  If you have assets and loved ones that you want to protect, you are in good hands with Morris Hall.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

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