If you’ve recently lost a loved one, dealing with their financial affairs can be challenging. To ensure the estate is taken care of correctly and so you can move on with your life, you have to start filing probate.
Probate is a legal process that goes through the local courts in the county where the deceased person lives. The process is similar in every state. However, some deadlines and specific details may be different when it comes to Arizona probate.
If you live in Arizona and are wondering how it works, this post will give you all the information you need.
Is Probate a Requirement?
Probate is generally a requirement unless the decedent has a trust or listed beneficiaries for all assets. However, there is one exception to this rule, which is for estates with personal property valued at less than $75,000, and real property under $100,000.
Such cases are considered a small estate, and families have to submit an affidavit to the court showing the assets and a copy of the will.
When the court grants the property transfer to the heirs, the process is completed. Any property held in joint tenancy will automatically transfer to the surviving owner without going through probate.
Community property is also included with the right of survivorship. Real estate in Arizona may transfer to a beneficiary with a transfer on death deed.
How Does the Probate Process Work?
The person in charge of handling the probate process in Arizona is called the personal representative. Here is a brief outline of how the probate process works:
- File an application: Personal representatives have to apply to the Superior Court of Arizona. After the court has approved the application, Letters of Appointment are received, and the representative has the legal authority to act on behalf of the estate.
- Send out a formal notice: Following their appointment, the personal representative must send out a formal notice to all interested parties. Interested parties include heirs, beneficiaries, creditors, and anyone else with a financial interest in the estate. The representative must also publish the notice in a local newspaper once a week for three consecutive weeks.
- File proof of notice: Proof of notice must also be filed with the County Superior Court informing them that notices have been mailed and published in a local newspaper. A copy of the proof of notice must be sent to all interested parties.
- Prepare an inventory and appraisal: The inventory must include estate property, estimates of a fair market value, whether the property was held as community or separate property, and any encumbrances that might exist. All interested parties must be given a copy of the inventory.
- Pay creditors: Before distributing any assets, all creditor claims must be paid. There is also a specific order in which they must be paid.
- File a final accounting: A final accounting lists the financial changes to the estates since the initial inventory. However, this is only a requirement if the probate is supervised. The court must approve how the estate was managed. In informal probate cases, interested parties have to be given a copy of the final accounting and sign a waiver and release to confirm they agree with the administration.
- Distribute assets: Before an estate can be closed, remaining assets must be distributed according to the Last Will and Testament. If there was no Will, assets must be distributed according to Arizona’s intestate law.
- Close the estate: If it was an informal private, the personal representative files a closing statement with the court stating that they have paid all debts and taxes, distributed the property, and filed the accounting. If no objections are filed within a year, the court closes the estate. In a supervised probate, the personal representative must file a petition with the court to close the estate.
Can You Avoid Probate in Arizona?
If you plan carefully, you can avoid probate. For example, a living trust allows you to avoid probate when the property owner dies because the title of the property is transferred to the trust. All assets in the trust automatically transfer to the named beneficiary from the trust.
You can also designate beneficiaries of certain assets, ensuring they transfer without going through probate. Examples include retirement accounts, life insurance policies, vehicles, and bank accounts.
How Long Does Probate Take in Arizona?
The timeline for probate varies based on the size of the estate and any disputes over the will. It can take months, even years, in some cases. The minimum time is around five months.
A personal representative has up to 30 days to notify inheritors once probate has been opened. They must also publish a notice in a local newspaper for three weeks and send notices to any creditors.
Creditors have up to four months to make a claim against an estate.