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The Arizona Probate Code provides rules for determining heirs. These rules apply in cases where the deceased person (the “decedent”) fails to leave a will or where not all of the decedent’s assets are disposed of by the will (or by one or more nonprobate transfers). In those cases, the Code determines the decedent’s heirs and the shares to which those heirs are entitled.
The rules are:
If the decedent was survived by a spouse but no issue (children, grandchildren, or other descendants), then all assets to spouse.
If the decedent was survived by a spouse and issue, all of whom are also issue of the surviving spouse, then all assets to spouse.
If the decedent was survived by a spouse and issue, one or more of whom are not issue of the surviving spouse, then one-half of the decedent’s separate property to spouse, and the decedent’s half of community property and one-half of the decedent’s separate property to issue.
If the decedent was survived by issue but no spouse, then all assets to issue (by right of representation).
If the decedent was not survived by a spouse or issue, then all assets to surviving parents equally.
If the decedent was not survived by a spouse, issue, or parent, then all assets to brothers and sisters equally (the issue of a deceased sibling, i.e., nephews and nieces, take by representation).
If the decedent was not survived by a spouse, issue, parent, sibling, or issue of a sibling, then one-half of assets to paternal grandparents equally (or their issue if both are deceased) and one-half of assets to maternal grandparents equally (or their issue if both deceased).
If the decedent was not survived by a grandparent or issue on one side of the family, then all assets to grandparents or their issue on the other side.
If the decedent was not survived by issue of parents or grandparents, then all assets to state of Arizona.
Some other rules:
The terms of a valid will supersede the above rules (i.e., the terms of a will replace any rule).
A person who does not survive the decedent by 120 hours is deemed not to have survived the decedent.
Relatives of the half blood inherit the same share as if they were of the whole blood.
A child in gestation is treated as living at that time if the child lives at least 120 hours after its birth.
A person is the child of his natural parents, regardless of their marital status.
An adopted person is the child of his adopting parents.
The above article is an excerpt from Estate Planning in Arizona: What You Need to Know, 2nd Edition (Wheatmark, 2019), by Donald A. Loose, republished with the author’s permission.
Disclaimer: Laws change constantly. Specific legal advice should be obtained regarding any legal matter. The information contained on this website does not constitute legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is created.
Donald A. Loose is an Arizona attorney, and the author of Arizona Laws 101: A Handbook for Non-Lawyers, and Estate Planning in Arizona: What You Need to Know. Mr. Loose is a regular guest on radio shows featuring local newsmaker interviews. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.