A will is a document, either typed or in some cases handwritten, that provides directions for what happens to a person’s property after they pass away. A handwritten will is called a holographic will. This is a will that is written in the persons own handwriting and signed by that person as well. A more formal will must be typed, and will usually have two witnesses as well as be notarized. In Arizona, a person’s will nominates personal representative, sometimes more than one, to manage and distribute the estate. In other states this is also known as an executor.
A will only applies to assets for which no other different method of transfer is set up. Some other methods to transfer property can include beneficiary designations, payable on death accounts, joint tenancy with right of survivorship, or placing property into a trust. Such methods or transfer are not affected by a will. If no will is made, and no other designation is made, property will pass by Arizona law. This is typically distributed to the closest heirs in equal amounts. Beneficiaries of IRA’s or life insurance policies, or the type of accounts listed above pass automatically to the beneficiary upon death.
There are many different choices when preparing your estate. While a will can be very simple, it is best to have a will drafted by an experienced attorney. Not only will the will be done correctly, but there are also additional documents which may be helpful such as a healthcare power of attorney, general durable power of attorney and living will. These documents form more of an estate plan than simply having a will. In some cases it may also be better to prepare a trust, rather than simply having a will.
A knowledgeable attorney will be able to review your estate plan, discuss your needs and draw up paperwork that is best for your situation. Furthermore, having an attorney makes it easy to make simple changes or codicils to a will in the even that circumstances change, which is bound to happen at some point.
You don’t have to have a large estate to need a will. Any person who wants to specifically designate how their property is passed on can have a will. In the case of a small estate a previous blog discussed how to probate a small estate for both real and personal property.
If someone dies and leaves a will, assuming other qualifications are met, the process of distributing the property is known as probate. Probate can be either formal, or informal, and is the legal means of submitting the will to the court, appointing a personal representative, paying any creditors of the estate, and distributing the property per the terms of the will.
It is not a requirement in the state of Arizona to have an attorney draft your will. In fact there are many online forms and document preparers that draft wills all the time. However, as discussed above, having an attorney prepare your will for you is a good idea in most cases. Sometimes a simple will may not be the best solution to solving an estate plan. Speaking with an attorney will also provide insight as to how to designate other property or accounts in a more suitable manner. If you have questions about your will or estate plan call our office today and set up a free consultation with a knowledgeable attorney.