Why Should I Write a Will in Arizona?
A Last Will and Testament is a legal document that instructs the state how you would like your property distributed after your death. When people pass away without a will, property must be legally distributed in accordance with Arizona law related to intestate succession. This creates unnecessary stress for your loved ones. Senior Planning is a legal document preparer, certified with the Supreme Court of Arizona. While Senior Planning does not give legal advice, it can be much more convenient and less emotionally and financially taxing to have a Will in place before passing to make your estate easier to deal with.
The Benefit of a Will
· Allows you to make specific gifts and determine who gets your property when you pass, rather than the State of Arizona.
· Organizes your affairs and simplifies the process for your heirs and for the courts to collect and disburse your estate according to your wishes.
· Allows you to ensure care for minor family members, as well as determining how and when they shall receive their inheritance.
· Can help avoid family controversy and conflict after your passing.
How to Write a Will in Arizona
As a legal document, it’s important that your Will to fulfill all the legal requirements set out by the State of Arizona. Following Arizona’s rules will allow your loved ones to be able to claim your property while minimizing legal hassle and costs.
To make a valid Will in Arizona, generally you will want to:
· Be at least 18 years old and of sound mind, also called testamentary capacity.
· Be free of undue influence (no one is forcing you to make your will).
· Account for family members who might benefit from your death, even if you don’t plan to include them in your will.
· Give instructions of what is to happen with your property upon your death.
· Finally, your will must be signed and witnessed by two witnesses.
For the witnesses, it’s commonly recommended that you have two disinterested parties sign; people who don’t receive anything from your estate. Upon your passing away, the court will want an original copy as part of the probate process, so it’s important to keep at least one original signed copy of your will.
A will typically appoints a personal representative of the estate (called in some other states an executor). This is the person the court will appoint to handle your estate’s assets as well as oversee distribution to the devisees of your will.
Most people making a will also waive the requirement that their personal representative post a bond. The bond in a probate estate can be expensive, but you can save your personal representative this expense by properly waiving this requirement in your will, directing the court to follow your instructions.
Types of Wills in Arizona
In Arizona, the type of will that is considered valid by the court in almost every case is called a self-proven will. This type must have the will maker, or testator’s signature and two witness signatures signed before a notary public. You must also have a wet signature original to present to the court. This type of will can be accepted by the court for informal probate, meaning a less costly process that may not require a hearing.
Other Types of Wills
Other types of wills may still be considered by the court. However, the court may need to have one or more hearings to decide if a will with a defect will be considered valid. If the will is contested, you may want to consider hiring an attorney to assist you with this proceeding, called Formal Probate.
Non Self-Proven Will
This is a type of will that has been witnessed, but not notarized. The court will need to make a final determination on the will’s validity, usually by having a hearing.
The court can also consider a holographic will. This type of will is entirely hand-written and signed by the testator. Again, the court will need to make a final determination on the will’s validity, usually by having a hearing.
Wills from Other States
Each state has its own rules regarding validity of wills. If you had a will made in another state other than Arizona, it may not be as legally effective here as in the state where it was made. Some people choose to redo their will if they move to another state permanently, since their new home will be the most likely location for the probate of their estate.
Changing Your Will
If you decide to change your will, there are a couple of main options to consider. One is to revoke the existing will and create a new will. Another is to create a codicil, which works like an amendment and can be used to change certain provisions. Arizona also considers “revocatory acts” such as destroying the will. However, these acts can be less clear.
Wills and Minors
If you have minor children, you can use your will to spell out who you would like to manage your property on behalf of your minor devisees. You can also designate a guardian for your children if applicable.
Mistakes in Your Will
If you make a mistake or something in your will is unclear, it is common that your loved ones will have to initiate a legal process with the court to get the matter resolved. It is also possible that other parties will have a better chance to contest provisions of your will if something has not been done correctly. Mistakes or unclear provisions can be very expensive to deal with.
Getting Legal Help Making a Will
As with any important legal documents dealing with property, there are many other legal issues that can impact your last will and testament, impacting how things will work after your death. For instance, getting a divorce can impact certain provisions in your will, such as who your personal representative is, and who receives your property. To avoid running into these types of issues, it can be helpful to contact a legal document preparer or an attorney. A professional can assist you with reviewing your will to make necessary revisions that ensure your will reflects your wishes when you have a major life change.
Working with an experienced professional can also help you think through some legal situations that you may not have thought to consider, such as substitution of personal representative, what happens to each heir’s share if they predecease the Testator, and other extraneous issues. As legal document preparers, Senior Planning can walk you through issues like this and give you legal information about each, allowing you to make the decision on how you want to handle things according to your wishes.
I’m Concerned My Will is Invalid, Can you Help?
Yes, Senior Planning can review your existing will and help you determine if it will pass informal probate with the Superior Court. While the final decision rests with the courts, we can reasonably review the will and make corrections or changes if you’d like us to do so. We can also review the will of a loved one who has passed to help you determine if you will need to pursue the informal or formal probate process.