In Arizona, it is common for individuals to find love again and remarry after divorce or the death of their spouse. Although not the most romantic topic, one of your first priorities as a newly married couple should be to update your estate plans. Estate planning is necessary, especially when it involves second marriages and blended families. If you want to ensure that your new spouse gets your property when you die, you should reach out to a qualified Phoenix estate planning attorney.
What Happens if I Get Remarried and Don’t Have a Will in Arizona?
When you die without a will in Arizona, it is called dying “intestate,” and state law determines how your property is distributed. Most people assume that your property will go to your spouse, whether it is your first, second, or third marriage. However, this isn’t the case if you have children outside the marriage.
In Arizona, if you have a spouse and children from outside the marriage, the spouse and children will split the decedent’s probate assets 50/50. If you have no children, all your probate assets will pass to your new spouse. Probate assets include everything besides trust assets, jointly owned property, and assets with a beneficiary designation.
If you want to ensure that your spouse gets your assets, doing nothing is never the best strategy. Instead, you should reach out to a Phoenix estate planning attorney to create a comprehensive estate plan.
How Can You Ensure That Your New Spouse Will Get Your Assets in Arizona?
There are various estate planning steps that you can take to ensure that your new spouse will get your assets when you pass away. The options that are right for you will depend on your unique situation.
1. Update Beneficiary Designations. Most likely, your ex-spouse was the individual initially listed as the beneficiary on any life insurance policies and financial accounts. It is critical to update these accounts to reflect your new spouse as the beneficiary. If you do not change your designations, your ex-spouse may still receive this property, even if you are legally divorced.
2. Retitle Your Property. You should consider retitling property, such as your home, as community property with rights of survivorship. When assets are held as community property with rights of survivorship, both spouses hold undivided shares of the property. When one spouse dies, the survivor gains ownership of the whole property. Community property with rights of survivorship avoids probate, and both halves of ownership receive a new tax basis equal to the fair market value at the date of death.
3. Create a Trust. You can create a trust that designates your new spouse as the beneficiary of trust property. Various trusts may be right for your situation. One option is to designate your spouse as a life beneficiary of the assets placed in the trust, while also designating your children from your previous marriage as the conclusive beneficiaries of the trust assets. Under this arrangement, the spouse can use the trust property throughout their lifetime but will not have the ability to give the property in the trust to anyone else. When your spouse dies, the property will pass directly to your children (or any other beneficiary that you designate).
4. Update Will. Lastly, you can update your will and include your spouse as a beneficiary for any property you wish to leave them.
How Do I Avoid Conflicts with Other Family Members?
Leaving property to a new spouse can cause family discord, especially if your family members and spouse do not have a strong relationship. Sometimes your children from a previous marriage or other relatives believe that the new spouse is stealing their rightfully deserved inheritance. In extreme cases, this conflict can result in a court battle after your death.
To avoid this outcome, you should have upfront discussions about your estate plan with your family. During this discussion, you can make your intentions clear and answer any questions. Additionally, you should consider transferring your property outside of probate. Your will becomes part of the public record and is much more easily contested than non-probate property.
Your Phoenix Estate Planning Attorney
If you are interested in creating or updating your estate plan, you should consult with an experienced estate planning attorney who understands Arizona’s unique laws and regulations. Nicole Pavlik has successfully helped many Phoenix residents navigate the estate planning process and is ready to offer you the advice you need. Call Nicole Pavlik Law Firm today at 602-635-6176 to schedule a consultation.