Generally, probate can be lengthy, stressful, and confusing process for all involved. Following the death of a loved one, the last thing you may want to deal with are the legal steps that govern the distribution of your loved one’s assets. However, probate is a necessary process in certain cases that must be started within a specific timeframe. Here is an overview of probate in Arizona:
The Probate Process
Probate is the court-supervised process of distributing the assets of a deceased individual. Probate is not always necessary. Probate is generally required when someone dies without a Will or trust (known as Intestate) or dies with a Will.
Probate can be broken down into two scenarios;
- Probate when a Will does not exist; and
- Probate when a Will does exist, as discussed below.
Probate When a Will Does Not Exist
When someone dies without a will or trust, known as intestate, the court is forced to assume the responsibility of identifying heirs and distributing the property. The court will select the close heirs, such as surviving spouses and children, as dictated by Arizona law. If immediate family does not exist, the court will look to other relatives such as siblings, parents, and grandparents. When no relatives can be located, the state may be awarded the unclaimed property.
Probate When a Will Does Exist
After an individual dies, family members must first determine if a Will exists and where it is located. Generally, individuals will place their Wills in safe deposit boxes or in fireproof safes. Once a Will is located, it must be filed in the probate court by the individual named as the personal representative or another party designated by Arizona law.
If you have been appointed as the personal representative of the Will, it is best to consult with a probate attorney as soon as possible. The personal representative plays a vital role in the probate process. A probate attorney will help you understand this complex process and evaluate the impact on the parties involved.
Once the Will is filed in the probate court, the court must determine its validity. The personal representative will then be appointed as named in the Will, or if not named in the Will, then the Court will assist the parties with the selection and appointment of a personal representative from the relevant statute. The personal representative must then notify all named devisees of the existence of the Will and create an inventory of the estate. All valid claims against the estate will generally be paid, along with income, estate and gift taxes, if necessary. The remaining assets will then be distributed.
The probate process is time consuming in Arizona because creditor notices must be published for a period of four (4) months and the probate court is involved in the process. In Arizona, a simple probate may take a minimum of six (6) months to complete.
Probate Can Be Avoided
As you can see from the overview above, the probate process is complex, lengthy, and costly. Several methods exist to help your loved ones avoid the probate process in the event of your death. A skilled estate planning attorney can discuss your options and help you prepare crucial financial planning documents such as living trusts, joint tenancy with the right of survivorship documents, beneficiary deeds, among other things, and advise you regarding making certain financial accounts non-probate assets so the probate process can be avoided for your loved ones.
For All Your Probate and Estate Planning Needs
Christopher W. Caine is a probate and general estate planning attorney who can help you to devise strategies to protect your assets from the expense and inefficiency of the probate process and protect the wealth you pass to your loved ones from creditors, disgruntled spouses and bankruptcy or help you work through the probate process, if necessary. Mr. Caine will provide you with diligent and compassionate representation while dealing with the often tough emotions that the death of a loved one evokes. Call us today at (520) 389-5634 to schedule your free initial consultation.
Christopher is an Estate Planning attorney providing legal assistance with probate matters, Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney and Beneficiary Deeds, among other things, to clients in the Tucson metropolitan area.
The Law Office of Christopher W. Caine probate lawyer is serving in the areas of Oro Valley, Pima County, Arizona.
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