One of the benefits of marriage is that when one spouse dies, the other spouse is entitled to inherit the property left behind. Currently, under Arizona law unmarried couples are not protected by those same provisions. Each party is considered an individual under probate law regardless of how long they have lived together. Generally, that means if a person dies without having created a will, a court will determine how the decedent’s estate is distributed amongst his or her heirs.
However, cohabitating couples who are over the age of 18 and of sound mind can each create a will that can specify that their property be passed on to their significant other. That will can also specify other estate planning documents as well as who should provide care for children under the age of 18 and disabled individuals.
It is important to remember that the formation and execution of a will can sometimes be very technical. That is why having the assistance of a legal professional can be extremely helpful throughout that will drafting process. For example, a will that has been written in another state is usually valid in Arizona but not in every circumstance.
Having a legal professional assist you with your will can also prove beneficial because it provides a safe harborage for your vital document. Arizona does not require that wills be filed with the County Recorder. In fact, Arizona courts will not participate in safekeeping your will until the time of your death. The court will only accept the will after you have passed.
As you can see, creating a will is an essential tool and safeguarding your property and ensuring your intentions after your death. Unmarried couples who live in Arizona should take some time and meet with their family law attorney to help them create a document that best reflects their future needs and wishes for their partners.
Source: The Judicial Branch of Arizona-Maricopa County, “General Information about Will and Trusts” Nov. 12, 2014