Probate is an Arizona Superior Court proceeding where the personal representative (PR) locates all estate assets, makes an inventory and valuation of the property, pays any debts, and distributes the remaining assets to heirs. The PR can keep certain files and information private by requesting the Court.
Petition to Open the Estate
The first step in probate is to file an initial petition to open the estate. The estate’s Executor can do this (if there is a Will), or someone the Court has appointed. The petition briefly describes the estate and identifies the heirs at law. It also asks for approval to start gathering and valuing assets. This process can be quick if the estate is small and there are no contested claims. However, if the estate is large or there are disagreements among the heirs, the probate process can take longer.
The person who files this petition must also publish notice of the opening of the estate in a local newspaper for three consecutive weeks. This allows creditors to present their claims before the estate is settled. Once the creditors are notified, the personal representative will begin collecting and valuing the assets. Once the assets are gathered and all debts are paid, they will be distributed to the beneficiaries.
Many people avoid the need for probate by engaging in proper planning before their death. In addition, they can transfer some assets without going through probate, such as real estate held in joint tenancy with rights of survivorship or property designated as community property. Some retirement accounts can also transfer without probate, depending on how the account is titled. However, the majority of the deceased’s estate must go through probate. This can be costly and time-consuming. Fortunately, Arizona streamlines the probate laws, offering ways to shorten the time it takes to transfer assets to beneficiaries.
Notification to Inheritors
The estate representative may skip probate if the estate’s total value is $75,000 or less. Arizona law allows simpler affidavit procedures for transferring assets like joint tenancy, community property, and beneficiary-designated assets. The PR notifies the estate heirs through a three-week newspaper notice and mailed notices to known creditors. These creditors have up to four months to file a claim against the estate.
During this time, the PR must also locate all assets and complete an inventory. This will include a list of all items in the estate and an estimate of their value. This information will be used to notify creditors, pay debts and taxes, and distribute the remaining assets to heirs. Once the PR has completed this process, they can submit a final accounting to the Court and close the estate.
Probate real estate in Arizona can be a long and complicated process, and executors must understand all the rules and deadlines. Start Investing in Real Estate An experienced attorney can help ensure that they take all necessary steps and handle the process according to the deceased’s wishes and state laws. A lawyer can also help avoid disputes that could arise during estate distribution. Probate records are generally public, but the Court can seal the files and declare certain information private if there is a request for confidentiality.
During this stage of the probate process, the personal representative will begin gathering and valuing the estate assets. This will include obtaining and reviewing financial records, paying estate bills and expenses, and selling any assets needed to pay those debts. The PR will also publish notice of the probate proceeding in a local newspaper for 45 days. This gives creditors four months to file a claim with the estate.
Generally, the personal representative will distribute the estate assets to the heirs named in the deceased’s Will or according to state law if there is no Will. Arizona’s Probate Rules establish the compensation that the personal representative is entitled to for their services.
While it may seem like there are numerous steps in this process, most probates in Arizona are “informal.” This means the proceedings will be completed quickly and with minimal court supervision. The only exception is when there is a question about the validity of the Will, a dispute about heirs, or an asset requiring increased court oversight.
Proper planning can prevent many probates. Options include transferring jointly owned real estate titles or using small estate affidavits for estates valued under $100,000. Contact us to schedule a consultation with our elder care attorneys for more information on avoiding probate. We’ll help you understand the probate process in Arizona and how to avoid it where possible. We aim to ensure that your loved ones’ wishes are met and that the state’s laws are followed.
If the estate owes any debts, the personal representative must publish a notice of probate for three consecutive weeks in a local newspaper. This gives creditors four months to present their claims against the estate. The Executor must then pay any debts and expenses of the estate and distribute the remaining assets to beneficiaries, as the will or Arizona intestacy laws instruct.
A person can also avoid needing a probate process by creating a living trust. This trust will own the property at death and name a beneficiary. In addition, certain assets may be excluded from a probate process if they are held in joint tenancy with the right of survivorship or community property, such as bank accounts and vehicles.
When probate is necessary, the personal representative must file the Will (if there is one) and a petition with the Court. The court registrar will then appoint the personal representative and admit the Will to probate if it is valid. The Court will identify heirs based on state law if there is no will. The surviving spouse usually has priority for appointment as the PR.
The PR will then inventory the estate and file a report with the Court within 90 days. The report lists all of the estate’s assets and their values. It will also include a list of liabilities and expenses for the estate. The PR will then distribute the assets to beneficiaries and, after filing a closing statement with the Court, will officially close the probate.
The probate process can be complex and lengthy, depending on the estate size and whether there are any disputes. However, an experienced Arizona probate attorney can help you through the process with as little disruption as possible.
Distribution of Assets
If the decedent did not have a Will, the personal representative must distribute assets according to Arizona’s intestacy laws. If the estate is small enough, the personal representative can skip probate altogether by using the simplified process for small estates. This option is available for estates with less than $100,000 for real property or $75,000 for personal property.
During the probate process, the personal representative will publish notice of the estate and gather all of the estate’s assets. This includes identifying all items, including their estimated value, and completing an inventory. The personal representative will also pay any debts that the estate owes. They will then distribute the remaining assets to the heirs and file tax returns as necessary.
The Court approves the personal representative’s actions and grants them authority to administer the estate before closing probate. They usually need a bond unless the Will waives it or non-waiving heirs/devisees file with the Court. Trust companies, public fiduciaries, and qualified title insurance companies in Arizona are exempt from filing a bond.
A skilled divorce attorney can help clients understand the rules for dividing assets in an Arizona probate proceeding. The guidance of a lawyer could be particularly valuable if you’re facing an irresponsible spouse who has spent the money they promised to leave you for their gambling habit or drug addiction. Getting legal advice early on in your case can help you resolve this issue quickly and efficiently.