If you die without a will or trust, the state determines who will be your ultimate heirs. This distribution plan can be found in the intestacy statutes of each state. The applicable state can be either the location of your legal residence (personal property), or the state in which your assets are located (real property). In the state of Arizona, for example, the law requires that without a valid will or trust in place, the intestate estate will be split as follows:
The following part of the intestate estate, as to both separate property and the one-half of community property that belongs to the decedent, passes to the surviving spouse:
- If there is no surviving issue or if there are surviving issues all of whom are issues of the surviving spouse also, the entire intestate estate.
- If there are surviving issues one or more of whom are not issues of the surviving spouse, one-half of the intestate separate property and no interest in the one-half of the community property that belonged to the decedent.
If the decedent leaves no spouse or direct lineal descendants, parents (or their lineal descendants if they are predeceased) would take the estate.
Contributed by MH Arrowhead, Scottsdale and Phoenix Estate Planning Attorney and Partner, David T. Eastman.
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