This was a column in a local paper that got me thinking that this is actually a very commonly asked question. First, it doesn’t all go the State. It may but this is very unlikely.
Basically, the State of Arizona has written a Will for you if you fail to do one yourself. If your wishes are not the same as the one written into statute, you will need to do a Will, or a Revocable Trust, to spell out your own wishes.
The State’s “intestacy” statute basically states your estate will go to your spouse if you have children that are also the children of your spouse. Otherwise, it is divided between your spouse and children from a prior marriage. If you are unmarried and without children, to your parents, and so on.
If you have remarried, a blended family, have a significant other or have other heirs you want to leave part of your estate to, you need to overcome this statute by creating your own Will or Revocable Trust. It is actually quite simple to do.
Kevin P. McFadden
Knollmiller & Arenofsky, LLP
This question gets asked a lot. Sometimes it is asked if the Feds or Arizona tax you when you die? Sometimes it is asked if the State gets part of your estate when you die? Mostly it is thought of in terms of probate whether you have a Last Will & Testament or not.
The short and simple answer for almost everyone is zero, the Feds and Arizona gets absolutely nothing when you die. Of course there are exceptions, but they are very limited.
One exception is if your total estate is over $5,250,000 at least for year 2013. If a married couple have done proper estate planning they can pass $10,500,000 this year estate tax free. And no, the State of Arizona does not have an inheritance or death tax. Some states do but Arizona does not.
Another exception is if you do not have a Will or Trust and you have no heirs. This means no parents, children, spouse, nieces and nephews, cousins, etc. Very rare, but possible. If this is the case, the State of Arizona takes the entire estate.
Another exception, but I don’t really think this should be thought of as an exception but basic taxation, is that if you have any assets that are pre-tax, for example an IRA, then when the funds are distributed, they are subject to income tax as they would have been if the person was still alive.
So in answer to the question, no, the Feds and the State of Arizona will very unlikely get a piece of your Estate. Of course this doesn’t mean your Estate will go where you want it to without careful estate planning. That is a subject of another post.