Having a will is one of the easiest ways a person can provide direction for what happens to their property or the guardianship of their minor children after they pass away. A will not only directs who shall be responsible for administering those belongs, but also directs how those belongings shall be administered. This is important as people often want to take care of loved ones, donate to charity or even provide for the care of a pet. A large estate is not required for a will to be useful. In fact almost everyone will benefit, at least in some way, from having a will. However, in order to achieve these goals, it is a necessity that a will be valid pursuant to Arizona law. So, what then, are the legal requirements of a will in Arizona?
To begin with, not everyone in Arizona can make a will. Arizona Revised Statute § 14-2501 states that “a person who is eighteen years of age or older and of sound mind may make a will.” Any person who wants to make a will must be able to demonstrate, at a minimum, that they understand what their property is, they can direct who should receive that property (these are the beneficiaries), and they must understand that by signing a will, they are giving specific instructions as to these requirements.
The most effective will is a self-proving will. The requirements for a self-proved will are set forth in Arizona Revised Statute § 14-2504. A self-proved will is a typewritten will, signed by the person making the will, as well as two witnesses and also witnessed by a notary public. The benefit to making a will this way is that is speeds up the probate process in that the personal representative (the person responsible for administering the will) can apply for a process known as informal probate.
A will can also be handwritten, a handwritten will is called a holographic will. A holographic will is governed by Arizona Revised Statute § 14-2503. A holographic will is valid as long as the signature and material provisions of the will are in the handwriting of the person who made the will.
A will does not necessarily apply to all property a person has. A will only applies to property that is part of the estate of the decedent. The estate includes all the belongings, personal property, real property, savings accounts, and most things left behind when a person dies. However, this usually does not include retirement plans or life insurance benefits. Arizona law also provides for other means of transferring property including beneficiary designations, payable on death accounts, joint tenancy with right of survivorship, or placing property into a trust. These things are generally not affected by a will. If no will is made, or if a will is not valid, property will pass by Arizona law, known as intestacy.
While these are the basic legal requirements of a will, this article is not intended to be exhaustive. There are many different choices when preparing your will. Although the basic requirements may be met, it is best to have a will drafted by an experienced attorney. This will help to ensure the will is drafted correctly and that a will is the best estate planning device to use. Additionally, other documents such as powers of attorney or a living will may also be needed. Platt & Westby has offices in Phoenix, Arrowhead, Litchfield Park, Scottsdale and Gilbert Arizona. If you are interested in creating a will, or even if you already have a will and want us to review it, contact our office by calling 602-277-4441 or www.plattwestby.com for a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.