What Happens When You Die Without a Will?

What Happens When You Die Without a Will? When it comes to estate planning, there is one question that is heard more often than any other. What happens when you die without a Will? While most people don’t like thinking about no longer being here, it’s important to have a current Will in place. Then, you never have to wonder about what happens if you don’t.

However, our legal team at Dana and Associates, LLC is here to answer that question. In the legal world, there is a term for dying without a Will. It’s called dying “intestate,” which basically means that a local probate court decides how to distribute your assets.

So, what happens next? Let’s break it down.

Dying Without a Will in Arizona

In Title 14 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, the intestacy succession laws determine who inherits the deceased’s probate estate if they were an Arizona resident or the owner of Arizona real estate.

In Arizona, if the deceased is survived by a spouse, the spouse would inherit the deceased’s probate estate whether or not they had children together. However, it gets more complicated if the deceased is survived by children from a prior relationship. In that case, the law dictates an amount of the estate to go to the spouse and an amount to go to the children. If the deceased is only survived by descendants (children), they would inherit the entire estate.

If the deceased was not survived by a spouse or descendants, the parents of the deceased would inherit the estate in equal parts. If the deceased was not survived by parents either, then their siblings would inherit the estate.

Dying Without A Spouse, Descendants, Parents, or Siblings

If a person died without a spouse, descendants, parents, or siblings, their property would be given to their nieces and nephews, and then to grandparents, aunts and uncles, great aunts and uncles, or cousins. Essentially, the probate court continues to follow the family tree until they find a living relative.

If the deceased wasn’t survived by any family members at all, the entire estate would “escheat,” meaning it would be given to the State of Arizona.

What Gets Inherited?

What Happens When You Die Without a Will?Intestacy laws only deal with property that is subject to probate. Probate property includes things like real estate that is titled to the deceased, personal property, bank accounts, and any other financial accounts or policies without a designated beneficiary.

Non-probate property bypasses the court process and is distributed directly to beneficiaries. This includes things like jointly-held bank accounts, property held in a Trust, retirement accounts, and life insurance policies that list a beneficiary.

What Happens When You Die With Debt?

If a person dies with debts that exceed the value of their estate, there would no longer be any estate to inherit. Instead, the property would be liquidated in an attempt to pay off the deceased’s debt.

Who Will Take Care of Your Kids? 

When one parent dies, the surviving parent is typically granted custody of their children. However, if there is no surviving parent — or if the parent is deemed incapable of taking care of their children — the courts will decide who is granted custody.

Many times, the courts ask family members to volunteer as guardians. From there, they will decide who is the best fit for custody. If none of the deceased’s family members volunteer, then the children will be put into foster care.

Estate Planning Attorneys in Arizona

What Happens When You Die Without a Will?What happens when you die without a Will is entirely avoidable. Probate creates additional stress for your loved ones during their grieving process. For that reason and your own peace of mind, it’s imperative to have an updated estate plan in place. Your estate plan serves as a roadmap for your loved ones to carry out your wishes.

Don’t let the stress of dying without a Will impact your loved ones. Here at Dana and Associates, LLC, we can help you create and implement a custom estate plan. In addition to probate and estate administration, we have designed thousands of custom estate plans for our clients.

Visit our website today for a FREE personal family legal session.