Most people know that they should have a will, but many don't know what a will is and how it works.
Here’s a quick checklist for making a will in Arizona:
A will, also called a "last will and testament," can help you protect your family and your property. You can use a will to:
In Arizona, if you die without a will, your property will be distributed according to state "intestacy" laws. Arizona's intestacy law gives your property to your closest relatives, beginning with your spouse and children. If you have neither a spouse nor children, your grandchildren or your parents will get your property. This list continues with increasingly distant relatives, including siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews. If the court exhausts this list to find that you have no living relatives by blood or marriage, the state will take your property.
No. You can make your own will in Arizona, using Nolo's Quicken WillMaker & Trust. However, you may want to consult a lawyer in some situations. For example, if you think that your will might be contested or if you want to disinherit your spouse, you should talk with an attorney. Nolo's will-making products tell you when it's wise to seek a lawyer's advice.
To make a will in Arizona, you must be:
Your will must be in writing, but it can either be on hard copy or a digital file that has been electronically signed. (See “Can I Make a Digital or Electronic Will?” below.) Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14-2502. Arizona does permit handwritten (holographic) wills Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14-2503.
To finalize your will in Arizona:
Neither witness can be related to you by blood, marriage, or adoption or be a beneficiary of the will unless the will is self-proved (Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14-2505). Even if you have your will self-proved, it's best not to have an “interested” witness sign your will because doing so could call into question the validity of your will.
Holographic (handwritten) wills do not require witnesses. The signature and material provisions must be in your handwriting. Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14-2503.
No, in Arizona, you do not need to notarize your will to make it legal.
However, Arizona allows you to make your will "self-proving" and you'll need to go to a notary if you want to do that. A self-proving will speeds up probate because the court can accept the will without contacting the witnesses who signed it.
To make your will self-proving, you and your witnesses will go to the notary and sign an affidavit that proves who you are and that each of you knew you were signing the will. Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14-2504.
Yes. In Arizona, you can use your will to name a personal representative who will ensure that the provisions in your will are carried out after your death. Nolo's Quicken WillMaker & Trust software produces a letter to your personal representative that generally explains what the job requires. If you don't name a personal representative, the probate court will appoint someone to take on the job of winding up your estate.
In Arizona, you may revoke or change your will at any time. You can revoke your will by:
If you get divorced or your marriage is annulled, any gift to your spouse or appointment of your spouse or one of their relatives as a personal representative or trustee is automatically revoked unless your will expressly states otherwise. Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14-2804.
If you need to make changes to your will, it’s best to revoke it and make a new one. However, if you have only very simple changes to make, you could add an amendment to your existing will – this is called a codicil. In either case, you will need to finalize your changes with the same formalities you used to make your original will (see above).
In a few states, you can make a legal will digitally – that is, you can make the will, sign it, and have it witnessed without ever printing it out. Arizona amended its wills statutes to allow e-wills in 2019. To make an e-will in Arizona, you must:
You must also appoint a “qualified custodian” who is responsible for electronically storing the will. This custodian must:
The custodian must store all of the following in the electronic record:
Electronic wills can also be self-proved. Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14-2519.
You can find Arizona’s laws about making wills here: Arizona Revised Statutes Title 14 – Trusts, Estates and Protective Proceedings Chapter 2 – Intestate Succession and Wills.