How to make a Last Will in Arizona
Learn about Arizona last wills and testaments and how you can get started making your own will.
A last will and testament is a binding legal document stating a person’s final wishes for the distribution of real and personal property after his death. The maker of a last will appoints an individual as his personal representative to carry out the instructions in the will in distributing the property among beneficiaries. Last wills are not legally required. But it is generally advisable to write a last will. In the case of persons who die without leaving a last will, they are said to have died intestate and Arizona state intestacy laws apply to the decedent’s estate.
Why should you create Arizona last will?
- To decide how property should be distributed
- To disinherit persons you do not want to be in charge of your property
- To appoint a legal guardian for minor children
- To facilitate a smooth probate process
- To avoid inheritance taxes for property that exceeds federal estate tax exemptions
- To make donations to charitable causes
Before you decide to make a Last Will in Arizona, here are a few things you should consider.
- What property are you going to include in your will
- Who are your beneficiaries?
- Who to appoint as your personal representative?
- If there are minor children, choose a guardian to look after their property
Wills in Arizona need not be notarized. You can make your own will without an attorney or notary. However, you have the option to make your last will self-proving- we’ll go over what that means in a bit. Having a self-proving will make the probate process much easier. The court can rule on the validity of the will without the testimony of at least one of the witnesses to the will.
What are specific requirements to create a valid last will in Arizona?
In Arizona pursuant to Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14-2501 the testator must be at least 18 years of age, and
- Must be of sound mind.
- The standard of mental capacity of a person is determined on the basis of;
- His ability to understand the effect of making the last will
- Ability to understand the general nature and character of the property
- He knows the beneficiaries of his bounty and their relationship with him
- The testator must execute the will voluntarily.
- The will must be executed in the presence of at least two witnesses.
- Witnesses must be 18 years or above and mentally sound.
- A beneficiary or anyone related to the beneficiary by blood, adoption, or marriage cannot be a witness. (But this is not so in the case of self-proving wills)
- The last will must be in writing, printed, typed, or in digital form.
- Failure to follow the above requirements will result in the probate court rejecting the will as invalid.
What are the four different types of last wills in Arizona?
- Non-self-proved/ witnesses wills
A.R.S. § 14-2502 requires non-self-proved wills to be in writing and signed by the testator or someone authorized by the testator in the testator’s conscious presence and at his direction. It must also be witnessed by at least two people who actually witnessed the testator placing the signature.
- Self-proved wills
A self-proving will is when the testator and witnesses declare in a self-proving affidavit that the will was executed in their presence. The self-proving affidavit is signed before a notary who will need to notarize the affidavit. What makes a self-proving will different from a non-self-proved will is that it includes a special affidavit wherein the signatures of the two witnesses are notarized by a notary public.
- Holographic/ handwritten wills
Pursuant to A.R.S. § 14-2503 handwritten wills are valid in Arizona. Holographic wills contain the handwriting of the testator.
- Electronics wills
A.R.S. §§ 14-2518 to 14-2523 allow the creation of electronic wills in Arizona. With the introduction of electronic wills the last wills can now be executed and witnessed remotely in Arizona. Electronic wills are created and maintained in electronic records. An electronic will must contain the electronic signature of the testator or someone authorized by the testator whose signature was placed in the direction and the conscious presence of the testator. At least two witnesses physically present with the testator must place their signatures electronically within a reasonable time after they witnessed the testator signing the will (A.R.S. § 14-2518(A) (3)). An electronic will must also include a copy of a government-issued identity card of the testator. To be a self-proving will, electronic wills must contain a notarized self-proving affidavit.
Who are the main parties involved in making a last will?
A person who makes and executes a last will is known as a testator (drafter). Testator drafts clauses in a will in a manner directing how his property should be distributed at upon his death and who will be legally entitled to be in charge of his property.
Beneficiaries are the persons who are named in the will and eligible to receive assets from the testator’s estate.
An executor called a personal representative in Arizona is the person appointed by a testator to carry out the wishes of the testator upon the testator’s death.
The trustee is the person named by the testator to manage the testator’s estate for the benefit of the beneficiaries.
- Legal guardian
Where the testator has minor children, it is a best practice to name a legal guardian to care for any dependent children left without any living parent upon the testator’s death. If the last will does not name a legal guardian the court will appoint one. There is no guarantee that the court-appointed legal guardian will align with the kind of guardian the testator wishes for his children.
Can you change your last will?
A testator can make changes to his last will without revoking it altogether. This is done using a codicil. A codicil is executed much like a last will in the presence of witnesses. The same requirements for a valid last will apply to a codicil.
Generally, it is not recommended practice to write codicils since it unnecessarily complicates the understanding of a testator’s wishes as stated in the will. It can also be hard to keep all the relevant documents in one place.