Arizona Probate Law: All You Need to Know

It’s no secret that Arizona probate law can be complicated, long, and drawn out. It’s one of the reasons “How to Avoid Probate” is at the top of searches in the field. However, if your loved one has already died, without taking the proper steps, it might be too late to avoid the probate process. If this is the case, then the next best option is to make sure you understand the probate process completely before moving forward. 

Each state has unique probate laws which can make an already complicated process even more complicated. If your loved one passed away in Arizona, but you live in a different state, you will still have to go through the Arizona probate process. Despite the complicated nature of probate, Senior Planning is here to help. 

What Is Probate?

Simply put, probate is the legal way of processing someone’s estate or possessions after they die. An estate can include cash, personal items, real property, cars, jewelry, and anything else that is deemed to be of value. Even with a last will and testament, a person’s possessions must go through probate. When items go into probate, it just means that the items are going through the due process, ensuring the will’s goals are achieved as well as making sure all state laws and taxes are followed. 

Although it can be costly, a probate attorney can help you meet any challenges and ensure you get what you are entitled to. If you don’t want to pay the high fees associated with a probate lawyer, it might be a good idea to consider a probate document preparation firm like Senior Planning because of the complexity of the process.

When Is Probate Required in Arizona?

The passing of a loved one can be a trying time for anyone. In addition to heartache, you are now confronted with the frustrating process of settling the deceased person’s estate. 

Any time someone dies with more than $100,000 in real property or $75,000 in personal property, their estate must go through probate according to Arizona probate law. Even if the person has a will, the court must still decide whether or not the will is valid. If the will is valid, the court is then bound to make sure the will is carried out to the letter. If the will is contested, it becomes a formal probate which can take longer than an informal probate.

What happens when someone dies without a will? This is what is known as intestate succession. Intestate succession means that someone who owned property has died without leaving a will. For intestate succession to happen, a person also has to be unmarried or widowed at the time of death, since assets automatically transfer to a spouse if no will is created.

Arizona Probate Law

Because each situation is different, it helps to get consultation before proceeding with probate. If probate is filed incorrectly, or if certain estate documents are missing, the proceedings become much more complicated. 

Before seeking a consultation in regards to Arizona probate law, it is useful to make a catalog of all assets owned by the decedent. This will help you determine if a full probate is truly necessary or if you can instead go through the small estate affidavit process. 

Probate Shortcuts in Arizona

To avoid the full probate procedure according to Arizona probate law, an affidavit can be used. An affidavit is a simplified procedure – you fill out an affidavit form, attach a death certificate, and present the documents to the institution (or person) holding the property or estate.

However, there are limitations based on the value of the estate. You might be wondering how much does an estate have to be worth to go to probate according to Arizona probate law:

 ValueWait TimeOther Requirements
Personal Property< $75,00030 days after deathNo ongoing formal probate 
Real Estate<$100,0006 months after deathNo personal representative appointed (or active during the last year)

What Types of Assets Are Subject to Probate According to Arizona Probate Law?

Any property that is owned and still in the name of the deceased person at time of death is subject to probate. This includes shares as well as complete ownership of property. 

Cars, real estate, and other physical assets often have to go through probate according to Arizona probate law. There is a limit on the value of items subject to a simplified probate process, as mentioned above. This makes it easier for smaller estates.

Some items don’t go through probate according to Arizona probate law. For example, if a beneficiary is named in a trust or if something is jointly owned with a spouse. Property that is subject to Arizona probate law:

  • Real estate including shares of jointly owned property
  • Vehicles including boats
  • Personal valuables (art, jewelry, clothing, furniture)
  • Bonds
  • Retirement Accounts
  • Stocks
  • Cash

Can You Avoid Probate in Arizona?

Many people believe that a will allows them to avoid probate according to Arizona probate laws. Unfortunately, this is untrue in the majority of cases. Of course, it is important to have a will set up to describe how you want the estate to work in the event of your death. This will help ease some stress for your loved ones as it is much easier to go through probate with a will rather than without. 

The easiest way to actually avoid probate according to Arizona probate law is by placing your estate in trust before the event of your death. If all items, possessions, property, cash, etc. are titled to a trust rather than you as an individual, there is no need for probate. For those who plan ahead this can be a great option. Senior Planning can help answer any questions you might have regarding beneficiary trusts.  

What Are the Different Types of Probate?

The state of Arizona provides two options when it comes to probate:

Informal Probate According to Arizona Probate Law

Informal probate is the simplest procedure and it is used when the will is not contested. Or in other words, no one has challenged the will.

In this case, a personal representative is appointed by the court, and almost no court supervision is required.

Formal Probate According to Arizona Probate Law

Formal probate is used when someone has contested the validity of the will or if other legal issues have risen in regards to the estate, according to Arizona probate laws.

The Probate Process

  1. Prepare the necessary documents for filing
  2. Choose a Personal Representative and Publish Notice
  3. Discover and Catalog all Assets
  4. Publish Notice to Creditors to Pay any Remaining Debts of Decedent
  5. File
  6. Ensure Assets are Distributed in Accordance with the Will

How Much Does Probate Cost?

Probate costs can vary depending on many factors: 

  • If the probate is informal vs. formal
  • If there is a will vs. if there is no will 
  • If there is more than $75,000 in assets 
  • If assets are easily cataloged vs. if the discovery of assets is difficult
  • If you file yourself vs. if you use a lawyer
  • If you use a lawyer vs. a legal document preparer

Also, there are court fees to consider, which are unavoidable regardless of how you file. Costs can be hard to predict which is why Senior Planning generally operates on a flat fee basis. Although we cannot offer legal advice, a legal document preparer can be a cost friendly solution to a usually expensive legal issue. 

How Long Does the Probate Process Take?

Just like the cost of probate, this depends on a variety of factors. Depending on the complexity and size of the estate, probate can take anywhere from eight months to three years. 

Do I Need Professional Assistance With Probate?

It is highly recommended you use professional help when dealing with Arizona probate law. Again, Senior Planning is a licensed legal document preparer so we cannot provide legal advice and everybody should decide for themselves. But the process is very complicated. Even minor mistakes can cause extreme delays and potential loss. There is a lot of legal jargon that is only used in a probate context and is unfamiliar to the layperson. This results in unnecessary complications when misunderstood.

Senior Planning helps from the initial paperwork filing until the estate is closed. We can help catalog assets, administer the estate, pay final debts, file the closing statement, and close the estate for good.

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