What is Probate?
Probate is the legal process of administering a person’s estate after their death. During the court-supervised probate process, the court validates the will, and the deceased’s property is transferred to the heirs. The primary purpose of probate is to prevent fraud after someone’s death.
When is Probate Required in Arizona?
Probate is not always necessary. In general, probate is required in Arizona when the deceased owned more than $100,000 in real estate or more than $75,000 of personal property (all assets other than real estate). If the deceased’s estate falls below this threshold, it is considered a “small estate,” and simpler affidavit procedures may be used to transfer assets.
Additionally, in Arizona, certain types of property pass outside of probate and directly to the heirs. Non-probate assets pass directly to their new owners without oversight from the probate court. The most common types of assets that avoid probate include:
- Trust assets,
- Property held in joint tenancy,
- Community property with right of survivorship,
- Payable-on-death bank accounts,
- Assets registered in transfer-on-death forms,
- Real estate transferred by a transfer-on-death deed,
- Beneficiary designations, and
- Life insurance.
What are the Types of Probate in Arizona?
There are three kinds of probate proceedings in Arizona.
- Informal Probate. Most probate proceedings in Arizona are informal. Informal probate proceedings happen when there are no challenges to a valid will. There is minimal court supervision and no court hearings. It is typically faster and less expensive than a formal probate proceeding.
- Unsupervised Formal Probate. In an unsupervised formal probate, the judge must approve certain actions by the personal representative. Unsupervised formal probate occurs when the judge must settle disputes over issues such as the meaning of the will, amounts due to certain creditors, or the distribution of assets to beneficiaries.
- Supervised Formal Probate. Supervised formal probate is when the court steps in to supervise the entire probate process. It must approve every distribution of property. Any person who has an interest in the estate can request supervised probate. It is required when an inheritor, creditor, or other interested party needs to be protected. This type of probate proceeding is the most expensive and takes the longest amount of time.
How Long Does Probate Take in Arizona?
In Arizona, there is no set amount of time for probate. Informal probate typically takes around six to eight months to complete. However, formal probate may take a year or more to settle and close the estate.
What are the Steps to the Probate Process in Arizona?
There are six basic steps to the probate process in Arizona.
- Open Probate and Appoint a Personal Representative. The probate process starts when an individual files an application petitioning the court to appoint a personal representative. A bond must be posted by the personal representative unless waived by the will or by all the heirs.
- Notify Heirs and Creditors. The personal representative must give notice to all interested parties, including heirs and creditors.
- Inventory the Estate. The personal representative must find, collect, and make an inventory of all the assets of the deceased that did not transfer automatically on death and remain titled in the name of the deceased. They may need to hire an appraiser to determine the fair market value of certain assets.
- Manage Claims. The personal representative must pay all valid debts and send out notice of disallowance, if necessary. Liabilities should be settled in the following order: 1) estate administration expenses, 2) funeral expenses, 3) debts, 4) taxes, 5) all other claims.
- Distribute the Estate. The personal representative must determine who the beneficiaries are and transfer assets as provided in the will. If the deceased does not have a will, the personal representative must distribute the assets as provided in Arizona’s intestate laws.
- Close the Estate. The personal representative must prepare a final accounting or waivers of accounting and file a closing statement with the probate court.
Do You Need a Probate Attorney in Arizona?
A probate attorney is not required but can be extremely helpful. An experienced attorney will help keep the probate on track and ensure that you follow all relevant regulations and procedures. Dealing with the death of a loved one is stressful and emotional. A probate attorney can make the process of handling the estate as painless as possible during this difficult time.
Your Phoenix Probate Attorney
If you have questions about inheritance loans and would like to speak to a probate and estate planning lawyer, call Nicole Pavlik Law Firm. Nicole Pavlik is an experienced Phoenix estate planning attorney who can guide you through the probate process. Call Nicole Pavlik Law Firm today at 602-635-6176 to schedule a free consultation and discuss your probate needs.