Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in Arizona

My question is in regard to a person being the beneficiary of a death benefit when there was no will or estate. I was married for 23 years but was divorced at the time of my husband's death. A former employer of his has stated that there is a death benefit available to me but I must submit a form stating that I have the right to the pension. Is there a way to do this without appointing myself as the informal personal rep. of his estate? He did not sign a beneficiary form with this employer and that is why it is complicated. At the time of his death, he left oweing a lot of back taxes which I am being told that I am responsible for. I have made an arrangement with the state to pay this back, and the money from the death benefit could help. I would rather not be appointed as the personal rep. to the estate, as I may be leaving myself open to other indebtedness that he occurred. There are no living heirs except two brothers who have both signed court waivers for me to be the personal representative. I'm not sure I want to handle all of that. Thank you for your time and help. I would appreciate any advice you could offer. Sincerely, Gloria Paul

Asked on 3/28/10, 8:26 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Donald Scher Donald T. Scher & Associates, P.C.

You are not liable for the debts of an ex-husband and unless the back taxes are directly attributable to you, I question whether you are liable to pay any of that either. I suggest that you consult with experienced legal counsel and find out exactly what is involved and what is going on. Because he did not sign a form designating who should receive his death benefit, the benefit goes to his estate and it is his estate that is subject to the claims of creditors and the tax collector. From the information that you have provided, it does not seem that there is any benefit to you to take any action, because his brothers would be the heirs to his estate, not you. I would want to see some proof that you are liable for any of his tax liabilities.

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Answered on 4/02/10, 2:13 pm

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