Wills serve as the cornerstone of an estate plan. Every person should have a will to ensure their loved ones know their wishes and intentions after death. A will can also help protect your wealth so you can pass it on to your loved ones. It can also take pressure off your family’s shoulders after your death and provide you with peace of mind during your life in knowing you’ve taken care of them.
Pennington Law, PLLC can help you with your estate planning needs, whether you are creating a will for the first time or making changes to an existing document. We have offices in Surprise, Sun City West, Peoria, and Buckeye, helping us serve clients throughout the Valley of the Sun.
Contact us today for an initial case evaluation with a West Valley Arizona will lawyer. Our firm can help you prepare an effective estate plan to protect your wealth and provide for your loved ones after your passing.
What Are Arizona Will Requirements?
To execute an enforceable will in Arizona:
- You must be at least 18 years old.
- You must have testamentary capacity, which means you understand the nature and extent of your property, understand the consequences of making a will, and can make reasonable judgments about the issues covered by your will.
- You must sign the will voluntarily, without coercion, duress, or undue influence.
- You must sign the will in the presence of at least two mentally competent adult witnesses, who must also sign the document.
- Your will must be in writing, whether in physical or electronic form.
Does a Will Need to Be Notarized in Arizona?
Although you do not need to notarize a will under Arizona law, doing so has a few valuable benefits, including making your will “self-proving.” A “self-proving” will is one that a probate court can approve without needing testimony from the witnesses to the will regarding the document’s validity. Notarizing your will can speed up the probate process by preventing the need to contact the will’s witnesses and bringing them into court to testify, which can cause problems if one of the witnesses has died.
Can I Write My Own Will in Arizona?
Arizona law does not require you to have an attorney or other professional write your last will and testament for you. However, working with a lawyer offers several critical benefits. Your attorney can ensure that the will reflects your intentions and wishes and can help you properly execute the document. Not only will this make your eventual passing easier for your loved ones, but it will give you the peace of mind of knowing so.
Are Handwritten Wills Legal in Arizona?
Arizona law accepts handwritten wills — also called a holographic will or a simple will — provided they meet the same requirements under state law for other wills. However, probating a holographic will may require proving that the handwriting on the will matches that of the testator (the subject of the will).
What Should I Consider When Drafting a Will?
Among the matters you should address in your will include the following:
- Assets – Your will should broadly identify the assets in your estate. You may want to note important assets, such as real estate, vehicles, and valuable artwork/jewelry. You can also list debts or liabilities, such as a mortgage or personal loans.
- Beneficiaries – The will should also identify the people and entities you want to receive your assets after your death.
- Asset Distribution Direction – After you’ve identified the beneficiaries of your estate, you must describe what each beneficiary will receive. You can give beneficiaries a percentage of your total estate, or you might bequeath specific items to an heir, such as your home or a family heirloom. You should also include a residuary clause directing the distribution of any property not otherwise bequeathed in the will.
- Personal Representative – Your will can also nominate someone to serve as your estate’s personal representative or executor. The court can appoint someone to serve if you don’t select an executor or they cannot or will not serve.
- Who Should Look After Your Children – You can also nominate someone to serve as guardian if you and your child’s other parent have died. However, the court retains ultimate authority to decide custody of your child.
Reasons to Review Your Will
Once you have written a will, you should regularly review it to ensure it continues to reflect your wishes. Some of the circumstances under which you should check your will include the following:
- Change in Marital Status – You should review and revise your will after getting married or divorced to include your new spouse in your estate planning or remove an ex.
- Addition of Child by Birth or Adoption – You should revise your will to account for any new children or grandchildren.
- Children Turning Age 18 – When your children reach adulthood, you may want to review your will to update their inheritance.
- Health Reasons – You should review your will if you suffer serious health problems because you may not have another opportunity to make changes.
- Dramatic Changes in Asset Value – When you experience substantial growth in the value of your estate, such as after buying a house or receiving an inheritance, you should review your will to include those new assets.
- Family Events Causing Drastic Changes in Relationships or Attitudes Toward One Another – You might want to review your will if you have a falling out with a family member named as a beneficiary.
- Changes in Federal or State Tax Laws That Would Impact the Estate Plan – You should review your will in response to changes to tax or probate laws that might affect the validity or enforceability of your will.
- Relocating to a Different State – When you move to a new state, you should check to see if the provisions of your will comply with your new state’s laws.
- More Than Three Years Have Passed Since Last Reviewing Your Will – You should check your will every few years to ensure it reflects your current wishes.
- Personal Change of Mind – You can review your will any time you change your mind about how you want to distribute your assets after your death.
How Do I Change My Will?
You can change your will by writing and executing a new one. When you create a new will, you should include a provision stating that you intend for the new will to supersede and revoke any prior will you’ve written in your life. Alternatively, you can amend a will by writing a codicil, which is a supplemental document that can explain or modify the terms of your will. Finally, you can revoke your will (without replacing it) by defacing or destroying the document, such as by shredding or burning the will.
Common Disputes Over a Will
Here are some common disputes that family members have over the validity or enforcement of a will:
- Fraud – Family members sometimes claim someone tricked the decedent into signing a will.
- Undue Influence– Many will contests involve claims that someone, often a family member or caretaker, used their position to manipulate the decedent into signing or amending a will.
- Coercion – A beneficiary might challenge a will by alleging that someone pressured or threatened the decedent into signing it.
- Counterfeiting – Interested parties might claim a will has been forged or altered.
- Vagueness – Disputes over estate administration may arise due to vague or unclear will provisions about which beneficiaries have different interpretations.
The Difference Between a Trust vs. a Will in Arizona
Both trusts and wills allow you to control your assets and direct who should receive them after your death, but there are several significant differences between the two. First, wills and trusts differ in when they become effective. A will only goes into effect after your death, whereas a trust becomes effective once you’ve signed and funded the trust. You can create and fund trusts during your lifetime, or you may set up a trust during your life and fund it after your death.
The other primary difference between wills and trusts involves the probate process. Distributing assets after your death via a will requires the court’s intervention, whereas trusts operate independently of court supervision. The lack of probate makes trusts attractive to families who want to avoid the time and expense of going to court.
What Is a Living Will vs. a Living Trust?
Although they have similar names, living wills and living trusts do very different things. A living will, also called an advanced medical directive, allows you to put your preferences for medical treatment in writing. It describes what decisions you would make in case you no longer have the capacity or capability to express those decisions due to physical disability or mental incapacity. A living will can protect your family from making difficult decisions about your medical care or arguing over your best interests.
Conversely, a living trust, also called an inter vivos trust, refers to any trust you create and use during your lifetime. A living trust legally owns your property, although you can keep control over your assets if you nominate yourself to serve as trustee. When you pass away, the beneficiaries you name in your trust will receive the assets in the trust.
Contact an Arizona Wills Lawyer Today
Ready to speak with an experienced West Valley Arizona wills attorney about your estate planning needs? Then contact Pennington Law, PLLC, today. Our firm can give you peace of mind knowing that your family members will understand your wishes at the end of your life and after your death. Let us help you to protect your family’s wealth and future.