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Who Gets What When You Die Without a Will?

Posted by Zach Dana on March 11, 2016

If you die without a will

If you die without a will

Who Gets What When You Die Without a Will?

As estate planning attorneys this is a common question we encounter. The majority of the time people are asking to determine the value of our estate planning services to them while the rest are simply curious what will happen if they die without a will.

Unfortunately the answer to this question is never simple or straightforward. The factors and equation for who gets what when a person dies without a will vary by state, making it an even more confusing process. Before we jump into it, it is important to note that the legal term for dying without a will is “intestate”.

In Arizona, the main factors that affect the intestate process are as follows: predeceasing a spouse or dying without a living spouse, predeceasing children or dying without living children, predeceasing parents or dying without living parents. Each of these factors, and factors combined result in different outcomes.

For instance, if you die with children but no spouse, your children would inherit everything. However, even something as simple as that equation can become complicated with all the ways to define children from adopted children to grandchildren.

Another scenario would be dying with a spouse and with children, but only children from someone other than your spouse. In this scenario your spouse and your children would split half of your separate property. However, when it comes to the community property, your children would receive the half that belonged to you while your spouse would keep their own half but receive no interest on the half that belonged to you. Of course, this scenario is a little more complicated, but with all the blended families that are around today it is not uncommon.

With all of these scenarios it is important to keep in mind that if you die without  a will you have no real control of how your assets are distributed. For example, say you passed away single with no kids with both of your parents already deceased. Per Arizona’s law your siblings would then receive your inheritance. But what if your siblings have kids? Even if you adored your niece/nephew and asked your sibling to give the money to them so that they can go to college there is no way to ensure that would happen, unless of course you have a will.

As you can hopefully tell by now, a will can provide you with the assurance and peace of mind that your assets will be distributed as you desire. In the event, that you do create a will it is important to keep it updated as major life changes occur (marriage, divorce, births, deaths, moves, etc.) as these can all affect the distribution of your assets. At Dana Law Group we understand the value a will offers to everyone and therefore make it affordable and worth your while by recognizing that a will needs to be created and maintained with growing families in mind and not be treated as a one time item that you can mark off check list. Call now for a free initial consultation with our experienced estate planning attorneys.