Arizona Last Will & Testament Information
By Ruth Sturdy
Putting together a Last Will and Testament in Arizona is important to help to organize the distribution of your assets upon your death. The Last Will and Testament can include assets such as your property, cash assets and even the care of your pets, which you can pass on to your family, friends and loved ones. You can even organize that your assets are passed on to a charitable organization.
Before the will can be accepted, it must be approved by a probate court.
An Arizona Last Will & Testament includes the following requirements:
- The testator must be eighteen years old or older.
- They must also be of ‘sound mind’.
- The Will must be signed by the testator or by someone else in their name (provided it is done under the testator’s direction and in their presence).
- The signing of the Will requires at least two witnesses in order to make it valid.
- Another requirement to make the Will valid is that it must be in written format.
- An Arizona resident may bequeath their assets to any beneficiaries.
Arizona law recognizes handwritten (holographic) wills as long as they are put together in accordance with Arizona law, in the testator’s handwriting and done by a person over the age of 18 who is of sound mind.
There are no estate or inheritance taxes in the state of Arizona, however, this doesn’t exempt you from other taxes such as:
- Federal estate or trust income taxes
- Individual federal and state income taxes
Any estate valued at less than $75,000 in personal property or $100,000 in real estate is able to skip the process of probate. These are labelled as small estates and the executor can handle them without the supervision of a court. If it exceeds the above, however, it will most likely need to go through:
- Informal probate, which requires one court hearing but little to no additional attention.
- Or, formal probate, which might require a few court appearances.
- Or, supervised probate, where a court and a judge will oversee the whole process.
In almost all cases, the state of Arizona permits the spouse of the deceased to obtain the entire estate. Specifically, this is applicable to either a marriage in which neither spouse had children or in which the children involved are those that the spouses had together. However, when there are children involved who were not born in this marriage, but from a prior relationship, circumstances are different. The spouse will then only be granted half of the estate’s property and the other half will be left to the children. In Arizona, the only way in which your children will obtain your whole intestate estate is if you have not married at the time of your death.
Although you do not have to notarize a will in Arizona in order for it to be valid, state laws here allow for a will to be self-proved. This means the authenticity of the will is not questioned and it may be exempt from further probate upon the death of the testator. A court will automatically accept a self-proven wall as valid and authentic, meaning witnesses are not required to attest this in court. In order to self-prove this, an affidavit must be attached to the will. This document must be affirmed in front of a notary and requires the presence of the testator and their witnesses.
Arizona is one of the few states that permits interested witnesses (ie. witnesses that are listed in the will as beneficiaries). It is a good idea, however, to avoid this and select witnesses who are disinterested.
Assets that do not require probate should not be mentioned in your will. These include:
- Real estate owned jointly with another tenant
- Bank accounts that are payable or transferrable upon death
- Retirement accounts
- Trust accounts
- Life insurance policies
Click here if you have any questions about creating a last will in Arizona.