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What Does It Mean to Die Intestate in Phoenix, Arizona?

— May 16, 2023

The easiest way to avoid negative consequences to your assets through intestate succession is to have a valid Last Will and Testament.

If a person does not draw up a will before they die, the law of intestate succession in Arizona controls the distribution of their estate. There are times when an estate can pass to the state of Arizona if no interested person is qualified to claim the intestate estate. 

Some of the complications resulting from dying intestate include:

  • Probate court fees are paid out of the intestate estate before assets may be distributed to heirs.
  • The estate is submitted for probate action. The probate court appoints a personal representative, takes control of assets and liabilities, makes distributions, and handles how custody of surviving minor children shall be determined.
  • The probate court determines who shall receive an intestate share of the assets.
  • The probate judge determines who shall be guardian of any minor children.
  • In Arizona intestate succession law, assets are distributed between the surviving spouse and children by blood or adoption according to a plan deemed most suitable by the court under Arizona law. If the decedent was unmarried with no descendants at time of death, then his or her estate assets will be distributed to heirs-at-law (parents, grandparents, and so on, according to ARS § 14-2103). It is possible for a distant relative, practically a stranger might inherit a person’s whole estate.   

Avoid intestate succession

The easiest way to avoid negative consequences to your assets through intestate succession is to have a valid Last Will and Testament. Arizona estate planning lawyers can assist with the drafting relevant estate planning documents and provide guidance for individuals.   

Estate plan

An estate plan consists of:  

  • a last will and testament, with guardianship if there are minors or special needs persons under their care.
  • an advance healthcare directive specific to end-of-life care.  
  • a durable power of attorney naming someone to handle a person’s affairs if they are unable.

Purpose of a will

Excessive Work Hours Lead to Significant Health Problems, Death
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A Last Will and Testament is important for the purposes of explaining where and how an individual would like their assets divided, debts resolved and end of life issues outlined because they are very personal matters. Experienced Phoenix estate planning lawyers guide clients to make sure a will contains the legally necessary language so a person’s wishes can be honored at the time of their death according to Arizona and federal laws. Estate planning documents should be reviewed periodically to address any changes in laws, and updates to individuals named in the documents, accounting for death or estrangement. Consultation with a lawyer is important to understand the distinction between “Do not resuscitate/intubate” and a formal will. 

Seek legal counsel

Estate planning lawyers draft the three essential documents to support a person’s wishes if they are unable to speak for themselves due to illness, and to allow their estate to be transferred as they desire. Consultation with tax lawyers  is also a prudent decision so they can review estate planning documents and explain how tax burdens will be handled for surviving loved ones.


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