Wills and Estate Planning

“Is Arizona a community property state? If so, what is the difference between community property and separate property?”

Yes. Community property is defined as that property acquired from earnings during the marriage. Separate property is defined as that property acquired prior to the marriage, or by gift, devise, or inheritance.

“What happens if I die without a Will?”

Dying without a Will (intestate) requires property titled in the name of the deceased to pass according to the laws of intestacy. For example, if no Will has been executed, property first passes to the spouse and then in equal shares to the children of the deceased. So far so good; however, if there are children by a prior marriage, then one half of the estate goes to the spouse and one half to the children in equal shares. There are numerous other family dynamics that could affect the intestate succession and distribution of the deceased’s estate.

In addition, not having a Will leaves a void as to who the proper person is to take charge of settling the estate and offers no assurance that settlement of the estate will be direct and certain. Often times a simple settlement of an estate is made more complex and expensive by not having a comprehensive Will in place.

“I have estate planning documents that I created from computer generated templates and from forms available at commercial stores. Are these documents accurate and will they protect my interests after I pass away?”

This question can be answered by substituting the words “medical diagnosis” for “estate planning documents” to understand that each person’s estate and priorities, family, and assets are unique and do not fit a “template”. Over the counter treatment is not professional treatment. Unfortunately, unlike medical treatment which can continue upon incapacity, estate planning errors cannot.