What You Need to Know About Estate Planning Laws in Arizona

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by | Apr 27, 2023 | Probate Law

Estate planning is an important aspect of financial management that ensures your assets are distributed according to your wishes after your death. It involves making legal arrangements for the transfer of your property and other assets to your heirs or beneficiaries. Estate planning laws vary by state in the United States, and if you reside in Arizona or own property in the state, it’s essential to understand the specific estate planning laws that apply. In this article, we will delve into what you need to know about estate planning laws in Arizona.

Wills and Trusts: Key Components of Estate Planning

Wills and trusts are two of the most common legal tools used in estate planning. In Arizona, a will is a legal document that allows you to specify how your assets will be distributed after your death. It outlines your wishes for the distribution of your property, appoints an executor to handle the administration of your estate, and may also include provisions for guardianship of minor children.

A trust, on the other hand, is a legal entity that holds your assets and distributes them according to your instructions. It is managed by a trustee, who is responsible for administering the trust by your wishes. There are various types of trusts, including revocable trusts, irrevocable trusts, and living trusts, each with its unique features and benefits.

It’s important to note that in Arizona if you die without a valid will or trust, your assets will be distributed according to the state’s intestate succession laws, which may not align with your wishes. Therefore, having a will or trust in place is crucial to ensure your assets are distributed according to your specific wishes.

Community Property and Separate Property Laws

Arizona is one of nine community property states in the U.S., which means that any property acquired during a marriage is considered community property and is presumed to be owned equally by both spouses, regardless of how it is titled. Community property includes all income earned and property acquired during the marriage, with some exceptions, such as gifts and inheritances received by one spouse.

On the other hand, separate property refers to assets that are owned by only one spouse and are not considered community property. Separate property includes assets owned by a spouse before the marriage, property acquired by gift or inheritance during the marriage, and property acquired after a legal separation.

Understanding the distinction between community property and separate property is crucial in estate planning, as it affects how your assets will be distributed after your death. For example, in Arizona, if you pass away without a will or trust and have community property, your surviving spouse will inherit at least half of the community property, regardless of what your will or trust says. However, your separate property will be distributed according to your will or trust, or if you do not have one, according to Arizona’s intestate succession laws.

Spousal Elective Share

In Arizona, spouses are entitled to a spousal elective share, which is a statutory right that allows a surviving spouse to claim a portion of the deceased spouse’s estate, even if the deceased spouse’s will or trust does not provide for them. Under Arizona law, a surviving spouse is entitled to claim 50% of the community property and 50% of the separate property that the deceased spouse owned at the time of death, subject to certain limitations and exceptions.

The spousal elective share is an important consideration in estate planning, as it ensures that a surviving spouse is provided for even if they are not included in the deceased spouse’s will or trust. However, it’s important to note that the spousal elective share can be waived in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, so it’s crucial to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney to understand the implications of this provision.

Estate Taxes

Estate taxes are imposed on the value of a deceased person’s estate, and in Arizona, estates with a gross value exceeding $5.45 million (as of 2021) are subject to estate tax. It’s important to note that while Arizona does not impose its state-level estate tax, it may still be liable for federal estate taxes, depending on the size of the estate and other factors.

Estate taxes can significantly reduce the amount of money available to heirs, so it’s important to consult with an experienced tax advisor or estate planning attorney to ensure that your estate is structured in a way that minimizes your potential liability for estate taxes. Additionally, there are other strategies you can use to reduce or eliminate your estate taxes, such as gifting assets during life and setting up trusts.

Estate planning is a complex process, and you should always consult with an experienced estate planning attorney before making any decisions about how to structure your estate. An attorney can help you navigate the intricacies of Arizona’s laws and ensure that your wishes are carried out after your death. Additionally, an attorney can also review any prenuptial or postnuptial agreements to make sure they are fair and legally binding. With the right estate plan in place, you can ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes after you pass away.

Wealth Transfer Planning

Wealth transfer planning is an important part of estate planning in Arizona, as it involves the strategic use of strategies to minimize or eliminate potential taxes on assets transferred from one generation to another. Wealth transfer strategies can include gifting assets during life, setting up trusts, and creating wills or trusts that provide for the distribution of assets at your death.

It’s important to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure that your wealth transfer plan is legally binding and fair so that the assets you intend to leave to your loved ones will be distributed according to your wishes. Additionally, a knowledgeable attorney can review prenuptial or postnuptial agreements for fairness and accuracy, as well as advise you on the potential implications of Arizona’s intestate succession laws. With a comprehensive wealth transfer plan in place, you can ensure that your legacy is passed on to future generations according to your wishes.

When it comes to estate planning in Arizona, there are numerous considerations to take into account. From ensuring that assets are distributed according to your wishes after death to understanding the implications of the spousal elective share and other laws, it’s important to consult with an experienced attorney who can help you navigate the complexities of estate planning. With a comprehensive plan in place, you can be sure that your assets will be distributed according to your wishes, providing peace of mind for both you and your loved ones.

Our Expert’s Take On This

If you’re an Arizona resident considering estate planning, the information in this post provides a good overview of some key estate planning variables worth learning about and understanding in greater detail. Community property, separate property, spousal elective shares, wills, and trusts are all important pieces of the puzzle that need to be aligned for an effective estate plan. It is also important to note that many states have unique control and taxation laws in place when it comes to wealth transfer. Estate taxes can also be a factor depending on one’s individual situation. Knowing what applies to your particular circumstances will help ensure you make decisions that honor your intentions successfully. 

Here’s our expert’s take on this: consult with qualified legal and financial professionals who can guide you through the estate-planning process adequately. Leave nothing to chance — plan for your future today!

Are You Looking for an Estate Planning Attorney You Can Trust?


Are you looking for a team of attorneys passionate about providing peace of mind for families? Look no further than GillespieShields. While we excel in various legal fields, Estate Planning is our bread and butter. We believe that every family deserves to have their affairs in order and their wishes carried out regardless of their circumstances. That’s why we fight tirelessly to ensure your estate plan is comprehensive and customized to your needs.

From navigating complex probate cases to determining custody arrangements for your children, our experienced attorneys are here to guide you every step of the way. We understand that the legal process can be overwhelming and confusing, so we offer private, one-on-one consultations to answer your questions and address any concerns you may have.

So, if you’re ready to secure your family’s future and gain peace of mind, contact us today to schedule your consultation with Arizona’s premier Estate Planning Attorneys at GillespieShields.


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