Last Will and Testament

What happens if I die without a will in Arizona?

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What happens if I die without a will in Arizona?

While this article is meant to explain what happens if you were to die without a will in Arizona, keep in mind that this is not intended as legal advice. If you need legal help please schedule a free consultation.

What happens if I die without a will in Arizona?

The passing of a family member is always a daunting experience.  It is important to understand what happens in the absence of a will or a trust for an individual's assets to pass on to the decedent's intended beneficiaries. 

Any property you own in a trust will likely avoid probate.  However, any property you own in your own name must go through a probate court proceeding for title to pass to your intended beneficiaries.  Probate is the legal process that determines who will inherit the property and belongings of the deceased.

The Arizona probate process follows these procedures:

Citadel Law Firm | A quick guide to the Arizona Probate System - picture with details

* Source: Nolo

  • A person who dies without a valid will is deemed to die "intestate."  For such a person, the state's laws of intestate succession will determine who may claim an interest in the decedant's property.  Intestate assets will usually pass to a spouse, child, or close relative.  Please refer to to the image on the left for a general idea to whom state laws typically assign assets.  A decedent's personal safe deposit boxes and bank accounts may be be frozen during this process.


  • The administration of the estate includes paying all of the debts that were owed by the deceased.  If these debts are equal to or larger than the value of the estate, then nothing will be passed on to a decedent's beneficiaries.  Generally speaking, excess debt is not inherited.


  • The amount of time that this process can take varies, but usually it takes from six months up to two years.

Small estate process

If a deceased’s personal property is valued less than $75,000 or their real property is valued less than $100,000, it may be possible to skip the probate process entirely.  One must wait at least 30 days after death to start a small estate by affidavit process for personal property and 6 months to start such a process for real property.  Additionally, only certain close relatives of the decedent may initiate such a process.

Value of a will or trust:

A valid will tends to minimize family discord as it identifies to whom the decedent wished certain property to pass.  Additionally, any assets held in a revocable living trust generally skip the probate process entirely.  This can alleviate some of the stress of dealing with a legal process during such a turbulent time.  Also, it can help to define more complicated asset transfer scenarios, such as when there are multiple beneficiaries or beneficiaries from various unions.  In addition, property estate planning with wills and trusts may allow a family to reap potential tax benefits.

To learn more about Arizona's intestate succession laws please go to Arizona Revised Statutes § § 14-2101 to 14-2114. You can also check our article "What is the difference between a will and a trust?" to learn more about Wills.

If you need legal assistance, please schedule a free consultation today.  Our attorneys practice Estate Planning law and look forward to working with you.