It is not uncommon for people to be caught off-guard with unexpected situations when a loved one passes away. If someone passes away without a will or other estate planning documents, or with assets that are not disposed of in a will, the decedent’s estate passes by the laws of intestacy. The laws of intestacy determine who is an heir of a decedent, entitled to receive property left behind.

In Arizona, the laws of intestacy are laid out in A.R.S. §§ 14-2102 and -2103:

A.R.S. § 14-2102. Intestate share of surviving spouse

The following part of the intestate estate, as to both separate property and the one-half of community property that belongs to the decedent, passes to the surviving spouse:

1. If there is no surviving issue or if there are surviving issue all of whom are issue of the surviving spouse also, the entire intestate estate.

2. If there are surviving issue one or more of whom are not issue of the surviving spouse, one-half of the intestate separate property and no interest in the one-half of the community property that belonged to the decedent.

A.R.S. § 14-2103. Heirs other than surviving spouse; share in estate

Any part of the intestate estate not passing to the decedent’s surviving spouse under section 14-2102 or the entire intestate estate if there is no surviving spouse passes in the following order to the following persons who survive the decedent:

1. To the decedent’s descendants by representation.

2. If there is no surviving descendant, to the decedent’s parents equally if both survive or to the surviving parent.

3. If there is no surviving descendant or parent, to the descendants of the decedent’s parents or either of them by representation.

4. If there is no surviving descendant, parent or descendant of a parent, but the decedent is survived by one or more grandparents or descendants of grandparents, half of the estate passes to the decedent’s paternal grandparents equally if both survive or to the surviving paternal grandparent or the descendants of the decedent’s paternal grandparents or either of them if both are deceased with the descendants taking by representation. The other half passes to the decedent’s maternal relatives in the same manner. If there is no surviving grandparent or descendant of a grandparent on either the paternal or the maternal side, the entire estate passes to the decedent’s relatives on the other side in the same manner as the half.

That’s why it’s so important to prepare proper estate planning documents ahead of time. Untrained drafting or not having an estate plan can result in unintended disposition of property. If you are the surviving spouse, another heir, or a beneficiary designated in estate planning documents, we would be glad to help protect your rights during administration of the Estate.  Call (480) 821-1012 or click to schedule an appointment with an attorney who can help you to draft proper estate planning documents or to help you administer an Estate.