• Why might I need a Will?
  • December 10, 2009 | Author: Sharon R. Sprague
  • Law Firm: Jaburg Wilk, P.C. - Phoenix Office
  • Many people think that a will may not be necessary for them as they don’t own very many assets.  However, if you don’t have a will, the state could determine who inherits your property and who will care for your children should both you and your spouse die simultaneously.  Things happen in our life, some of them we can control, others we cannot.  There are certain life events that necessitate a review of your estate plan, including your will.

     

    1. Birth or adoption of a child -- Naming a guardian for your minor children in the event of your death could be one of the most important decisions you ever make. Typically, your spouse -- or the biological parent of the minor child -- would be named as the guardian.  In the event, that both parents are deceased, naming a family member, close friend or other qualified person to be guardian to the minor children is paramount.  The state could decide who cares for the children if you have not selected a guardian in your will.  
    2. You are in the process of obtaining a divorce -- Updating your will while you are in the divorce process is recommended.  Typically, spouses name their spouse as their primary heir.  Without a new will or codicil to your existing will the spouse, who you are divorcing, may receive your assets if you were to die before the divorce was finalized.
    3. Divorce -- Once your divorce is finalized, updating your will is very important.  There may be court orders or settlement agreements that direct how assets will be divided or who will be named as guardian of your minor children.  If you and your former spouses had existing wills it is appropriate to have a new one prepared that takes the divorce into consideration.  Additionally, beneficiaries of life insurance policies and retirement accounts should be reviewed, again pursuant to any orders or divorce settlement agreements. Many people forget to address this situation until it is too late.
    4. Remarriage -- In the event you get re-married, there may be children from prior marriages that you want to inherit your assets or you may adopt your new spouse’s child.  You may desire to have your assets passed to your new spouse or both you and your new spouse may want your estates to pass to your children.  Remarriage is a critical time to review and update your will. 

    In the event you do not have a valid will, the Arizona laws of intestate succession will govern how your estate is distributed.  Currently, it would be distributed as follows:

     

      • To your surviving spouse, if none, then
      • To your surviving children; if none, then
      • To your parents, if they are still alive. If they are deceased, then to
      • Your brothers or sisters, or if they are not living, then to your nieces or nephews, then to grandparents and other relatives.  The intestate distribution considers “issue” meaning direct descendents. 
      • If no one is qualified to claim your estate, it passes to the State of Arizona.

    These are a few examples of when you should consider having a new will prepared or update an existing will by executing a codicil.  In addition to updating your will, you may want to consider a Healthcare Power of Attorney, Living Will and a trust.  If you have questions, you can contact our firm and we would be happy to arrange for you to meet with an attorney in our estate planning group.