A will, sometimes called a “last will” or “last will and testament,” is a document that sets forth how your assets will be distributed and to whom upon your passing. In your will, you name a personal representative to administer your estate and carry out the terms of your will and see that your final wishes are honored. When naming your personal representative, think of someone you trust implicitly, someone who is appropriate for the task and and also someone who is willing to do it.
LEGAL REQUIREMENTS OF A WILL
To make a valid will in Arizona, one must be at least 18 years old and be of sound mind. The will must be written and signed either by the testator or by someone in the testator’s presence at the testator’s direction. The will must be also signed by two witnesses. Holographic, meaning handwritten, wills are legal in Arizona so long as they are signed by the testator and the material provisions are in the testator’s handwriting.
What does a Will do?
1) Ensures your assets are distributed to whomever you would like to receive them at your death; otherwise, the state of Arizona will distribute your assets according to state intestacy law.
2) Names the person or family you would like to raise your minor children.
3) Names the person who will handle your minor children’s inheritance.
4) Appoints the person you would like to serve as the Personal Representative (Executor) to handle your estate.
5) Provides directions as to how you would like your funeral and remains handled.
What does a Will NOT do?
1) It does not prevent probate which can be a lengthy and expensive court process.
2) It is not a private procedure. All documents, records and hearings are a matter of public record.
3) Most Wills, unless they contain a testamentary trust, do not provide for the assets to be distributed out over time. This means that your children will receive their distribution at the age of majority (18).
4) It does not provide asset protection to the beneficiaries.
BENEFITS OF A WILL
A will can be very helpful in situations where the value of the estate qualifies for distributing via small estate affidavit or informal probate. Probate is not needed in such instances and the will can set forth distributions and final wishes accordingly. A will can be helpful in dealing with property that is acquired but not successfully transferred to the decedent’s trust. Whatever items are not transferred by a mechanism that avoids probate can pass by the terms of the will. A will can also enable you to disinherit someone as is allowed by law. Note that Arizona law does have some protections for spouses and children that have been omitted from estate planning documents.