A.R.S. 14-3101 Interpretation
In Arizona, title to a decedent's real property devolves directly to his or her heirs and devisees, and this is true whether the estate has been or is being administered.
Section 14-3101(A) (Supp. 2006) states:
Upon the death of a person, his separate property and his share of community property devolves to the persons to whom the property is devised by his last will, or to those indicated as substitutes for them in cases involving lapse, renunciation or other circumstances affecting the devolution of testate estates, or in the absence of testamentary disposition to his heirs, or to those indicated as substitutes for them in cases involving renunciation or other circumstances affecting the devolution of intestate estates.
This statute contains several terms of art that are defined in A.R.S. 14-1201 (Supp. 2006).
These defined terms include "devise" ("when used as a verb, means to dispose of real or personal property by will") and "heirs" ("persons . . . who are entitled under the statutes of intestate succession to the property of a decedent"). A.R.S. 14-1201(12) and (23).
Accord, A.R.S. 14-3901 (Supp. 2006)("In the absence of administration, the heirs and devisees are entitled to the estate in accordance with the terms of a probated will or the laws of intestate succession.").
A.R.S. 14-3101 and 14-3901 are virtually identical to 3-101 and 3-901, respectively, of the Uniform Probate Code. Unif. Probate Code 3-101, -901 (1998).
The comment to 3-901 confirms that title to a decedent's property passes to his heirs and devisees at death.
Arizona courts have consistently recognized this principle.
Stephens v. Comstock-Dexter Mines, 54 Ariz. 519, 522, 97 P.2d 202, 203 (1939)(real estate of deceased person upon death changes in ownership by operation of law and becomes vested in heirs subject to payment of debts of the estate, expense of administration, and allowance to family);
In re McDonnell's Estate, 65 Ariz. 248, 252, 179 P.2d 238, 241 (1947)(on death, title to real property immediately vests in heirs who may then convey their interest subject to ordinary processes of administration and rights of creditors);
Hallas v. Evans, 69 Ariz. 14, 18, 207 P.2d 985, 987 (1949)(on death of husband, widow as only heir became immediately vested with title to husband's land);
In re Foreman's Estate, 99 Ariz. 147, 149-50, 407 P.2d 102, 103-04, (1965)(real property of deceased person changes in ownership upon his or her death by operation of law and becomes vested in heirs).
In In re Estate of Johnson, 168 Ariz. 108, 110, 811 P.2d 360, 362 (App. 1991), the Court explained that although A.R.S. 14-3101 provides that property is transferred to the devisees upon the decedent's death, the statute does not "govern the time of vesting of a devise in an heir who is required by the decedent's will to survive distribution of the estate."