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Probate In Arizona

If you have recently lost a loved one, we understand what you are experiencing because everyone at our firm has lost someone close to them and then had to handle the details of taking care of their affairs.
 

There are some common misconceptions questions about what you have to do and what is required in Arizona when someone dies. Our website will provide some answers.
 

 

Before we address the question of “What is Probate,” we first want to address the question of “Do I have to file a probate?”

Common Question: Do I have to file a probate if my spouse or parents die in Arizona?

Arizona has three ways to probate assets of an estate: (1) Informal; (2) Formal; and (3) Supervised probate.

The short answer is usually “Yes” unless the following applies:

1. The Assets of the deceased are in a trust; or

2. The Assets of the deceased are held as joint tenants with the right of survivorship (property held as merely as community property doesn’t count as will be explained later); or

3. The Assets have a payable on death contractual provision (such as a retirement plan or life insurance proceeds); or

4. In the case of a husband and wife, the husband and wife have previously executed a formal Community Property With Right of Survivorship Agreement; or

5. An Small Estate Affidavit where the estate consists of personal property with a value is less than $75,000 and Real Estate with a Value of less than $100,000.

There is more detailed information below so please keep reading.

What is Probate?

Probate is the system in Arizona where we handle all of the financial affairs of a person who as died and the transfer of title of the deceased person’s property. If you die and you have executed a Will, then we say that you have died “Testate.” If you die and have not executed a Will (or some other planning documents which avoids probate) then we say that you have died “Intestate”.
 

 
When you die with a Will, you get to designate what gifts you want to make with your property. You also get to pick who you want to handle the wrapping up of your affairs and the making of your designated gifts. That person is called an Executor if it is a man or an Executrix if it is a woman.

When you die without a Will, there is a statutory law that predetermines who receives gifts and in what percentages. There is also a statutory law which determines which people and the order of those people are eligible to handle your affairs. Simply put, if you didn’t take the time to figure it out, the State of Arizona will figure it out for your regardless of your wishes.

A person has to file a Petition with the Court to seek to appoint a Personal Representative of the Estate. In some cases, the Court may also require that person to pay for a Bond to protect the heirs and creditors of the Estate during the process. A Notice To Creditors is published in the newspaper and direct notice is sent to known creditors. An inventory of all of the deceased assets is prepared and filed with the Court. Obviously, everything filed with the Court is public information and anyone can read it.

Notices are sent to all beneficiaries with all of the relevant documents filed with the court.

 

If property must go through probate, Arizona provides several options.

Informal probate. Informal probate is the simplest form of probate, used when there is a valid will that has not been challenged. The personal representative appointed by the court administers the estate with minimal court supervision.

Formal probate. The court uses formal probate to resolve an estate’s legal issues – for example, if the validity of a will is contested, there is a dispute over who should be appointed personal representative, or there are conflicting interpretations of a will.

Supervised probate. Some estates require supervised probate, in which the court oversees every step of the probate process. This means the PR must go to the court and ask for approval before taking any actions such as paying creditors or distributing assets. Any person who has an interest in an estate can request supervised probate. Probate courts usually require supervised probate when it is necessary to protect an inheritor, creditor, or other interested party.

 

Simplified probate for small estates. Some small estates qualify for a simplified version of the probate process.  An estate will qualify for simplified probate if the its value (less mortgages and liens) is less than the total value of:

  • costs and expenses of administration
  • reasonable funeral expenses
  • reasonable last medical expenses of the deceased
  • a reasonable amount of money to support the spouse and children of the deceased, and
  • the value of any property exempt from creditors.

After distributing all assets, the person appointed by the court to handle the estate–the personal representative (PR) can close the estate by filing a petition with the court