Who Inherits Assets of an Arizona Resident Who Dies without a Will or Trust?

by Arizona attorneys Richard Keyt (Rick, the father) and Richard C. Keyt (Ricky, the son)

When a person dies, the property and assets they owned must go somewhere. If they died with a will or trust, their property will pass according to their express wishes. However, if they failed to create a will or trust, their property will pass via the Arizona laws of intestate succession. Basically, this means that if you don’t create a will, the state will create one for you. For Arizona residents the laws that determine who inherits the property of a deceased Arizona resident are called the laws of intestate succession.

Take Our Who Inherits Your Property Test

If you are an Arizona resident or your loved one is an Arizona resident, take our online Who Inherits Your Property test to determine who will inherit the property of an Arizona resident who dies without a will or a trust.

Intestate Succession

The first thing a state probate court will look at is whether the decedent (the person who died) was married. Note that when a married Arizona resident dies, he or she has two types of property that passes: all of the decedent’s separate property and the decedent’s one half of the community property.

1. If the decedent was married and had no surviving descendants (children, grandchildren, etc.) all of the decedent’s separate property and the decedent’s entire one half interest in community property passes to the surviving spouse.

2. If the decedent was married and had surviving descendants who are all descendants of the surviving spouse, all of the decedent’s separate property and the decedent’s entire one half interest in community property passes to the surviving spouse.

3. If the decedent was married and had surviving descendants, one or more of whom are not descendants of the surviving spouse, one half of the decedent’s separate property will pass to the surviving spouse and one half of the separate property and decedent’s entire one half interest in the community property passes to the decedent’s descendants.

If you are not married, or if your spouse predeceased you, your property will go to your descendants per capita at each generation. Per capita at each generation means that the shares of the decedent’s property to be passed are determined by the number of descendants at each level. If you have three children and at your death at least one of them is still alive, your property will be divided into three equal shares, one for each child. If one or two of your three children passes away before you but that child left his or her own children, your estate will still be divided up into three equal shares, one for each of your children. Your children that are still alive will each receive a one third share. The remaining one third share(s) that would have gone to your children had they not predeceased you are now pooled and distributed equally to your deceased children’s children. Consider the following examples:

1. When Dave dies he has three living children, Craig, Cindy and Casey. Craig, Cindy and Casey will each get one third of Dave’s property.

2. However, suppose that Craig passed away before his father Dave, leaving three living children Greg, Peg and Meg. In that situation, when Dave dies, Dave’s living children Cindy and Casey will each inherit one third of Dave’s property, and Craig’s children Greg, Peg and Meg will each inherit one ninth of Dave’s property. Since Dave had surviving children, the shares were determined by the number of children. Three children, three equal shares.

3. Now suppose that Cindy also passed away before Dave, but is survived by her child Mindy. Now, when Dave dies, Dave’s living child Casey will inherit one third of Dave’s property. Craig’s children Greg, Peg and Meg will each inherit one sixth of Dave’s property. Cindy’s child Mindy will also inherit one sixth of Dave’s property. Again, since Dave had surviving children, the shares were determined by the number of children. Since Craig and Cindy predeceased Dave, their respective one third shares are combined and split equally between their children. This means that Craig’s three children and Cindy’s one child will each inherit equal shares of Craig and Cindy’s combined two thirds share.

4. Finally, let’s suppose that all of Dave’s children pass away before Dave. Casey was also survived by children, Stacey and Tracey. Since Dave has no surviving children, we move to the next level where there are surviving descendants, here Dave’s grandchildren. Now, each of Dave’s six grandchildren inherit a one sixth share of Dave’s property.

But what if you’re not married and don’t have any descendants? Then your property goes to your parents. If both of your parents are surviving, then to each parent equally. If only one parent is surviving then all your property goes to your surviving parent.

If your parents are not surviving, then your property will pass to your parents’ descendants per capita at each generation. This includes your siblings and any half siblings you may have. For example, if Doug passes away but is survived by his brother and sister Barry and Sally, Barry and Sally would each inherit one half of Doug’s property. If Barry passed away before Doug and was survived by two children, Larry and Harry, Doug’s sister Sally would receive one half of Doug’s property and Barry’s children would each receive a one fourth share.

If you have no surviving descendant, parent, or descendant of a parent, your property will pass to your surviving grandparents, if any, or your grandparents’ descendants. Half of your property will be allocated to your paternal grandparents and half to your maternal grandparents. If on either side (paternal or maternal) both grandparents are alive, then the entire one half share will be split equally between the grandparents. If one of the grandparents is deceased, the surviving grandparent will receive the entire one half share. If neither grandparent i