For a will to be valid in Arizona, it must meet specific requirements. It is critical that your will is valid under Arizona law because interested parties can challenge it after your death. If the court finds that your will is not legally enforceable, the wishes that you articulated in the will won’t be fulfilled. Instead, the court will apply Arizona intestacy laws.
There are different types of requirements that must be followed for a will to be valid in Arizona. These requirements control 1) who can make a will, 2) who can sign as a witness, and 3) the form of the document. Additionally, Arizona has special rules for wills that are handwritten.
Who Can Make a Will?
You must be 18 years or older to make a will in Arizona. Secondly, you must be of sound mind. In general, being “of sound mind” means that you 1) understand what your property is, 2) know the individuals that will benefit from your death naturally, and 3) understand that by creating a will you are giving specific instructions for who will be getting property at your death and what property they will be receiving.
Finally, the person creating the will cannot be under undue influence. This means that the will must reflect the intentions of the person creating it. If another individual exercised control over the testator, the will won’t be enforceable. To determine if the testator was unduly influenced, the court will look at all the surrounding circumstances. For example, the court will consider whether the will is inconsistent with prior plans, if the will was prepared and signed quickly, whether the primary beneficiary helped in the preparation or signed as a witness, and whether the testator was vulnerable.
Who Can Be a Witness?
For a will to be valid in Arizona, the witnesses must also fulfill specific requirements. The witnesses must be competent, meaning they must have the mental capacity to understand the circumstances sufficiently.
Typically, it is good practice for the witnesses to be disinterested parties. A disinterested party is someone not receiving any property under the will. However, the will is not automatically invalid if an interested party serves as a witness.
The Form of the Document
A will must be in writing. If you tell someone orally what you want to happen to your property, it will not be considered a valid will in Arizona.
The testator must sign the will. If the testator is physically unable to sign the will, he can direct another person to sign for him in his presence. The individual that signs for the testator cannot also be a witness.
Two witnesses must sign the will. Each witness must sign in front of the testator and the other witness. The witnesses must either see the testator sign the will or the testator must tell the witnesses that it is their signature.
The will does not need to be notarized to be valid. However, Arizona does allow wills to be “self-proved.” To be self-proved, the testator and the witnesses must affirm the authenticity of the will in an affidavit that is signed in front of a notary. The affidavit is then attached to the will. If a will is self-proved, the court will automatically accept the will as valid, and it may be probated through an informal process where the witnesses are not required to testify to its validity.
Holographic wills are valid in Arizona. A holographic will is a will that is in the testator’s handwriting. The entire will does not need to be handwritten. Instead, only the material provisions (the provisions that name the beneficiaries and property) must be handwritten. For example, there are form documents online where the testator can fill in the material provisions. The court may accept these wills as valid even though parts of the will are typed.
To be valid, a holographic will must be signed by the testator. It does not need to be signed by witnesses.
Your Phoenix Estate Planning Attorney
If you are interested in creating a will, you should reach out to a knowledgeable Phoenix estate planning attorney. Nicole Pavlik is an experienced attorney who will ensure that your Will fits your needs and is legally enforceable in Arizona. Call Nicole Pavlik Law Firm today at 602-635-6176 for a free consultation.