All too often, individuals die before making a will and estate plan. Even if you don’t have children, a large estate, or a spouse, it is important to have a will that designates what happens to your property after your death. Most people understand that they need a will, but never take the time to create one, leaving the courts to decide who gets what when someone dies.
What are the consequences for those individuals?
When someone dies without a will or some other legal method to transfer property when one dies, state law will determine what happens to his or her property. In Arizona, this is called “intestate succession.” Intestate succession laws affect only assets that would have passed through your will. Usually, that includes assets that you own alone, in your name.
Generally, these assets will go to the spouse or children, or if there is neither, a close relative. If no relatives can be found to inherit the property, it will go to the state. Also, if no will has been created, a court will decide who will care for young children and their property if the other parent is unavailable or unfit to do so.
In Arizona, if someone is part of a same-sex relationship, the surviving partner will not inherit anything because Arizona doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage.
Typically, property distribution (without a will) depends on whether one is married or single, and whether you or your spouse has any children.
Nolo provides a visual on scenarios of who would inherit what if no will was in place. See below: