It’s best to hire an Arizona last will and testament attorney to write your estate planning documents. Here’s why. A do-it-yourself will is valid in Arizona. There is no legal requirement to have an attorney draft a will. However, the laws governing wills in Arizona are strict. The requirements for a valid will are not relaxed just because a person chose to write the will themselves.
In Arizona, a last will and testament is a legal document that directs who will receive your property after you die. A will also allows a person to choose the guardian of a minor child should both parents die before the child. The choice of guardian is a good reason for younger parents to make a last will and testament. The directions in a last will and testament override the default inheritance provisions of Arizona law.
You Can Control Who Inherits Your Estate.
A will allows you to control who inherits your estate. If you do not have a will, then state law determines who gets what when you die. In some states, the surviving spouse automatically receives everything; in others, children receive half (or more) of your estate.
An Arizona will is administered through a legal proceeding called probate. Probate is designed to pay a decedent’s creditors, and after creditor claims are resolved, to legally transfer title to the decedent’s property to heirs named in the will.
A person can write a last will and testament at any time during their lifetime. You can change your will any number of times.
There Are Generally No Restrictions To What Your Will Can Say.
As a general rule, there are no restrictions about the directions someone can write in their will. A person can give what they want, to whom they want, and how they want after their death.
A will’s testamentary directions can be simple, or the directions can be complex and detailed. Provisions in a will that make a bequest deemed contrary to public policy, such as a bequest conditioned upon race or religious criteria, are not enforceable. Also, an attorney preparing a will may not make themselves their client’s heir. A typical simple will in Arizona makes one’s spouse the sole beneficiary and personal representative, and it gives all assets equally to their children after the second spouse’s death. However, that’s for a traditional marriage where the children are common to both spouses. It can get more complicated if you have a blended family and want to ensure that your children from a prior marriage get something.
Steps to Writing a Will in Arizona.
Here are the 5 most important steps to writing a will in Arizona:
- Pick a personal representative. This is the person who will manage your affairs after your death. Designate any backups should your initial choice not be able to do it.
- Decide on specific gifts. These can include set amounts of money, property, or even family heirlooms.
- Determine who will inherit everything else. Often this is a spouse and then children.
- Pick who you want to be guardian for any minor children.
- Choose between a will and a living trust. This depends on whether you want to plan for incapacity or control the timing and manner of distributions.
You Can Be Sure That Your Wills Are Valid.
An experienced lawyer can help ensure that your will is properly written. They can also make sure that your wishes are carried out after you pass away. Here are the requirements to make a valid will in Arizona:
- It must be signed by the testator. The testator is the person making the last will and testament. The testator must be over the age of 18 and be mentally competent. If the testator cannot understand the document they are signing, then the will is invalid. For that reason, children under 18 cannot make a will (as they lack legal competency).
- It must be in writing. The writing can be typed or handwritten. Oral wills are not valid in Arizona. (However, there is an Arizona statute about oral trusts that sometimes can help.)
- It must have two witnesses. Any competent person can be a witness. However, it is not a good idea for a witness to be related to the testator or to be a beneficiary of the will. In addition, it is important for the witnesses and the testator to sign a self-proving affidavit, which is typically at the conclusion of the document. The self-proving affidavit makes probating the will easier as it eliminates the requirement that the witnesses testify in the probate proceeding to authenticate the will.
- It must be signed by everyone in the same room. Each witness and the testator must all be in the room together and sign at the same time.
Arizona Courts Strictly Enforce the Requirements For A Will.
Arizona courts strictly enforce the requirements for a will in Arizona. A valid will must follow all requirements provided by section 14-2502 of the Arizona Statutes. Otherwise, someone can challenge a will that does not comply with the formalities of signing and witnessing, and the court will invalidate the will.
It is best to hire an experienced Arizona last will and testament attorney to ensure that your will meets all Arizona will requirements, and that you sign it in compliance with the provisions of Arizona law. The preparation of a will by someone other than a lawyer may constitute the unauthorized practice of law, and an improperly drafted or executed last will and testament may increase probate fees and estate costs.
The statute requires that a person amending a will must be execute it (sign it) with the same legal formalities as the original will. In other words, any amendment to the will must be in writing and signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses.
After a person dies, their heirs must “prove” the will to start probate. Proving a will consists of presenting evidence that the testator properly executed the will. You can make an Arizona will “self-proving.” A self-proving will in Arizona is one that does not need further authentication before a court admits it into probate. The law that allows a will to be self-proving in Arizona is Arizona Statute 14-2504. To be self-proving, the testator, two witnesses, and a notary must all sign and acknowledge being together in each other’s presence when signing the will.
Revoking a Will.
There are a few ways to revoke a will in Arizona:
- Destroy it. Any manner of destruction qualifies as revocation. For example, you can burn the will, tear it up, shred it, throw it away, etc.
- Direct someone else to destroy it in your presence. This is much less common, but it is a legal way to revoke your will.
- Create a new will. Any new will automatically revokes and overrides any previous will. However, to be safe, the new will should include a statement revoking all prior wills. It is best to get an Arizona last will and testament attorney to help with this.
You’ll Save Money.
An experienced Arizona last will and testament attorney can help you draft a will that meets your needs and protects your loved ones. They can also advise you on how to avoid common mistakes that can cause problems later. In addition, having a will helps ensure that your wishes are carried out after you pass away.
You Need An Attorney To Write A Will.
If you die without a valid will, state law determines who gets what. This means that your spouse, children, parents, siblings, and other relatives inherit your property according to state laws. However, there are some exceptions. For example, if you have qualified retirement accounts such as IRAs or 401Ks, the named beneficiary receives those accounts. It does not matter what you wrote in your will. (This is pursuant to federal law.)