When a person dies with a will or without an estate plan, their close family member or heirs must probate the estate. Probate is a court proceeding where the court appoints a personal representative for the estate of a deceased person. The representative is responsible for paying the estate’s debts and distributing any remaining assets. A judge or commissioner of the court oversees the personal representative’s decisions and actions.
In Arizona, there are three ways to probate an estate:
Informal probate is the most common type of probate in Arizona. These are distributions, which occur with limited judicial oversight. Typically, you do not need to visit the court and a judge does not oversee every decision of the personal representative.
Only the following people can file for an informal probate proceeding:
- Decedent’s spouse,
- Adult child
- Personal representative appointed in the will,
- If the decedent is a veteran, the department of veteran’s services,
- Creditors after 45 days pass since the decedent’s death.
Formal probate matters typically involve multiple hearings before the court and may be necessary for the following reasons:
- When the validity of the will is questioned,
- A personal representative needs to be determined,
- The court needs to identify heirs,
- The deceased’s assets require court supervision.
In supervised probate, the court administrates all aspects of the distribution. This includes opening the estate, approving attorneys, appointing a personal representative, communicating with creditors, and doing anything else necessary to administer the estate.
In Arizona, if an estate is small enough, $100,000 with real estate or under $75,000 of personal property, the law allows you to skip probate and use a simple process. However, even if your estate will be below these limits, meeting with an attorney can still save your loved ones from making difficult decisions you could have otherwise made clear had you created an estate plan.
Avoiding probate is often a great idea. The lawyers at REP LAW will help determine the right estate plan for you and in most situations will make probate an unnecessary hurdle for the loved ones you leave behind.