When a person passes away, there are various ways to dispose of the person’s property. If a decedent has done little or no estate planning and dies without a Will, the decedent’s probate estate is divided according to the Arizona intestacy laws. Intestacy laws aim to distribute a decedent’s property according to assumptions made about how the decedent would wish to distribute her property if she were still alive. A Will, on the other hand, is an effective estate planning device that can help ensure that a decedent’s property is distributed consistently with their wishes.
A person who makes a Will is referred to as a “testator” or “testatrix.” In Arizona, a testator must be 18 years old and of sound mind (See A.R.S. § 14-2501). There are also a number of formal requirements that must be followed to create a valid Will. Arizona statutes lay out the various requirements throughout Title 14 Article 5 of the A.R.S. Failure to follow these can result in an invalid Will, which, in turn will be ineffective and unenforceable.
There are several general requirements that must be met to create a valid Will in Arizona. A Will must be in writing, signed by the testator or another person directed by the testator to sign the testator’s name in the testator’s presence, and signed by a least two witnesses. See A.R.S. 14-2502. However, holographic Wills which are in the testator’s own handwriting do not require any witnesses but also must follow the requirements found in the Arizona Revised Statutes. For example, the material provisions of a holographic Will and the signature must be in the testator’s handwriting.
Wills can give rise to myriad different legal and factual issues. The issue of formation is just one. Sometimes when a Will is contested a question arises about whether the Will has been modified by a second document known as a codicil, or whether the testator revoked the Will altogether. Another common issue is whether the testator had the requisite mental capacity at the time the Will was created. The answers to these issues can have significant implications on the parties involved.
An experienced Tucson, Arizona estate planning attorney can help you create a valid Will and avoid many of the common issues that arise in will contests. If you would like to create a Will as part of your estate planning or if you have encountered a dispute over a Will submitted to probate, the Tucson estate planning attorneys at Giordano Spanier & Heckele Law Firm, can help. Call today for a consultation at (520) 549-2276 or email us at [email protected] with any questions you may have.