The probate court oversees the distribution of estate properties in Phoenix, Arizona. Though it can be time-consuming and costly, the court’s oversight helps to prevent fraud and protect the rights of the deceased. In Phoenix, the probate proceedings are held at the Maricopa Superior Court located at 201 West Jefferson Street, Phoenix, AZ 85003.
The Probate Process in Phoenix
The probate process begins in Phoenix when an individual files a will (if there is one) and a petition asking to be the personal representative in Maricopa Superior Court. The personal representative is the individual who will be directly handling the estate. Once the court approves the application, the personal representative can begin to administer the estate. Throughout the probate process the probate court will oversee that the personal representative properly 1) notifies all interested parties, 2) gathers and takes an inventory of all the assets of the decedent, 3) pays the decedent’s debts and taxes, 4) distributes the assets, and 5) closes the estate.
The probate process is generally the same whether or not the decedent died with or without a will—the primary difference being how the assets are distributed. If the decedent died with the will, the executor must distribute the assets according to the will. However, if the decedent died without a will, the personal representative must distribute the assets according to Arizona’s laws of intestate succession.
Types of Probate Proceedings in Phoenix
There are three types of probate proceedings that the court oversees in Phoenix: 1) informal, 2) formal, and 3) supervised. The amount and manner of court oversight depend on the type of probate proceeding.
- Informal Probate
Informal probate is available when there is a valid will that is not contested. It is the simplest form of probate and requires the least amount of supervision by the court. There is no hearing in an informal probate proceeding. Rather, a court registrar oversees the process. If the will is challenged during the proceeding, it will trigger formal probate.
- Formal Probate
An estate must go through formal probate if there is a legal issue regarding the will that the court resolve. Legal issues triggering formal probate could include questions about the validity of the will or contesting interpretations of the will. There is a court proceeding and higher degree of court oversight in a formal probate proceeding. The personal representative cannot make distributions of the estate property until the court has validated the will.
- Supervised Probate
Supervised probate is used when there are complex or usual issues surrounding the estate. The personal representative or an interested party can request supervised probate at any time. In supervised probate, the probate court must oversee all distributions and sales of estate property and any payment of debt to creditors. The court must approve every step of the estate administration. Supervised probate is the most expensive and time-consuming of the three options.
Small Estates in Phoenix
If you have what Arizona law defines as a “small estate,” you can go through a simplified procedure with minimal court supervision. Rather than having to go through a probate procedure, you can simply file an affidavit of succession with the court. It does not matter whether or not the decedent had a will.
Before you can distribute property, there are specific waiting periods. An affidavit to transfer personal property can be used 30 days after the decedent’s date of death, and an affidavit to transfer real property can be used six months after the decedent’s date of death.
A small estate is when the personal property in the estate is $75,000 or less, or the total value of the real property is $100,000 or less. When calculating whether the estate meets Arizona’s small estate limits, you should not count any assets that do not go pass through probate. Examples of assets that avoid probate are listed below.
Avoiding Probate in Phoenix
Certain assets do not need to go through the probate process, meaning that the probate court does not need to oversee their distribution. Some examples of property that can avoid probate include:
- Property held in a living trust,
- Property held in joint tenancy,
- Community property with right of survivorship,
- Payable on death bank accounts,
- Insurance policies, and
- Retirement accounts with a designated beneficiary.
Your Phoenix Probate Attorney
Trying to handle the probate process alone can be complex and overwhelming. Nicole Pavlik Law Firm will help you navigate this process and ensure that the final wishes of your loved one are being realized. Call Nicole Pavlik Law Firm today at (602) 635-6176 for a free consultation.