How the Probate Process Works in Phoenix, Arizona
Probate is the legal process of settling an estate. It can be complicated to navigated with strict deadlines and numerous forms and tasks that must be completed. The person in charge of handling the probate process in Phoenix is called the personal representative. Below is a general outline of the probate process in Phoenix, Arizona
- File an application serve as personal representative of the estate
The first step is to file an application at the Superior Court of Arizona in Maricopa County to serve as the personal representative of the estate. After the court approves the application, the personal representative will receive Letters of Appointment and have the legal authority to act on behalf of the estate.
- Send out a formal notice to interested parties
After the personal representative is appointed, he or she must send out a formal notice to all interested parties. Interested parties include anyone with a financial interest in the estate, such as heirs, beneficiaries, or creditors. To alert unknown creditors or other interested parties, the personal representative must publish the notice in a local Maricopa County newspaper. The notice must be published once a week for three consecutive weeks.
- File proof of notice
The personal representative must file proof of notice with the Maricopa County Superior Court stating that he or she mailed the notices and published the notice in a local newspaper. A copy of the Proof of Notice should be sent to all interested parties.
- Prepare an inventory and appraisal of the estate’s assets
The personal representative must complete an Inventory and Appraisement. The inventory must include:
- A list of the estate’s property with reasonable detail;
- An estimate of the property’s fair market value at the date of the decedent’s death;
- Whether the property was held as community or separate property; and
- The kind and amount of any encumbrances that may exist on the property.
A copy of the Inventory and Appraisement must be mailed to heirs, beneficiaries, or other interested parties that request a copy. If the probate is supervised, the personal representative may be required to file a copy with the court.
- Pay Creditors
Before distributing any assets to beneficiaries, the personal representative must pay all creditor claims. In Phoenix, creditor claims must be paid in the following order:
- Costs and expenses of administration,
- Funeral expenses,
- Federal taxes and debts,
- Medical and hospital expenses relating to the last illness of the decedent,
- Arizona Department of Revenue taxes, and
- All other claims.
- File a final accounting
A final accounting lists the financial changes to the estates since the initial inventory. The personal representative is only required to file the final accounting with the court if the probate is supervised, and the court must approve how the estate was managed. However, the personal representative has the option to file the final accounting in any circumstance where he or she wants the court to do a formal closing, or there is accounting or distribution that the court must resolve.
If it is an informal probate, the personal representative can simple provide interested parties with a copy of the accounting. The parties will sign a waiver and release stating they agree with the administration.
- Distribute the remaining assets to heirs
The final step before closing the estate is to distribute the remaining assets according to the Last Will and Testament. If there was no Will, the assets must be distributed according to Arizona’s intestate law.
- Close the Estate
How the estate is closed depends on whether it is an informal or supervised probate. In an informal probate, the personal representative files a closing statement with the court stating that he or she has paid all the debts and taxes, distributed the property, and filed the accounting. If no objections are filed against the estate administration within a year, the court will close the estate.
In a supervised probate, the personal representative must file a petition with the court to close the estate.
Your Phoenix Probate Attorney
The probate process can be complicated and overwhelming, especially when you are dealing with the loss of a relative. It is a smart idea to work with an experienced probate attorney. Nicole Pavlik Law Firm can help you navigate the probate process and ensure that the final wishes of your loved one are being realized. Call Nicole Pavlik Law Firm today at 602-635-6176 to schedule a free consultation and discuss your business planning needs.