What Happens if I Die Without a Will in Arizona?
If you die without a will in Arizona, you will be said to have died “intestate.” In this circumstance, the distribution of all property you own will be transferred in accordance with Arizona intestate law, which strictly provides who will inherit what percentage of your property.
The following are answers to some commonly-asked questions about intestate distribution:
- If I tell my children who I want to inherit specific items, isn’t this enough?
No. Assuming that your children are your only survivors, each child is entitled to their share of the fair market value of your property. “Fair market value” does not take into account sentimental value.
- Who will determine which of my children gets specific property?
Generally, whoever is appointed the personal representative for the estate. One or more children may petition the court for this role, and the personal representative chosen by the court must then distribute assets equally among your children based upon the fair market value, which may differ significantly from the sentimental value for certain assets. Potentially, this can cause huge conflict among your children, because if the personal representative is also a beneficiary, he or she could allocate all sentimental assets to himself or herself.
- Can special assets be sold?
Yes. The personal representative could choose to sell “special” assets, like family heirlooms, instead of making an allocation of such assets to surviving children.
- What happens when there is disagreement among the surviving children as to how assets are being divided?
Generally, the children will need to come to an agreement about the division of assets. However, this process can be acrimonious, and, in some cases, can cause permanent hurt feelings. Any beneficiary may also file a lawsuit if he or she believes that he or she is not being treated fairly. Legal fees and court costs can thus impact all of the children, and significantly reduce the value of the estate.
You Don’t Want Your Legacy to Your Children to be Fighting Over Your Assets
You can avoid the problems noted above and other contentious issues simply be creating an effective will, and clearly specifying who will receive certain assets.
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