Arizona Probate: Process, Steps, and Documents
Losing a loved one is never easy. In addition to the emotional strain and heartache, there are a lot of matters that must be officially settled in the eyes of the law when someone dies. This can add stress to an already stressful time. If your family member dies with an estate they intended to pass on, you may be required to go through the Arizona probate law process. Arizona probate is the legal process of petitioning for and disbursing the assets of your loved one’s estate. This can be a confusing and frustrating process. Senior Planning is here to help.
What is the Probate Process in Arizona?
These are the steps you have to go through during the probate process:
Read the Will
The family has to gather to read the will. It is usually good to have an attorney or an independent third-party present when reading the will. Make sure to keep the will, as the probate court only accepts an original of the document. If everyone agrees on what is outlined in the will the probate process will be much easier.
Keep in mind that if the will is contested, you will have to go through a complex and lengthy process called formal probate.
Sometimes there is no will at all. If there is no will and the decedent was not married or was widowed, assets will be distributed under Arizona’s intestate succession laws. You can learn more about Arizona probate law by clicking the link.
Determine who the Personal Representative is
A personal representative (also known as executor) is generally nominated in the decedent’s will. The personal representative is the person who will manage the decedent’s estate during the probate process.
If there is no will or a personal representative is not named in the will, such a person can be determined by the family. The Arizona law favors a spouse, adult children, and siblings, but it could be any other qualified person.
The personal representative will be required to fill out paperwork and prepare the documents needed for the probate process. If the person is not comfortable doing this, they may not be a good fit as a personal representative.
Prepare an Inventory
Within 90 days of being appointed as a personal representative, the representative should officially file an inventory with the court and mail a copy to all interested parties. Inventory simply refers to a catalog of all assets owned by the decedent.
Creating an inventory will help you determine if full probate is truly necessary or if you can instead go through what is called a small estate affidavit process. If your relative has died 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.
The inventory should list all property owned at time of death and the market value of each item at the date of the decedent’s death.
File for Probate
The first step is to make an admission of the will to probate court. The court will determine whether the will is valid.
The personal representative should file Form 1 – Order to Personal Representative (accessible on the Arizona court website). It lists all your duties as a personal representative.
According to the Arizona Rules of Probate Procedure, the personal representative should also file Form 11, Probate Information Form for Decedent’s Estate (which can be found on the Arizona court website). There is no need to provide a copy of this Form to the interested parties.
Keep in mind that, as stated by the Arizona court, your appointment is not effective until the Clerk of the Superior Court has issued letters appointing you as a personal representative. The next step is to get your letters of administration.
Provide all Required Notices
- Notice of Admission of Will to Probate and a Copy of the Will (up to 30 days after the admission of the will) – You should notify all interested parties, such as heirs, that you’ve made an admission of the will and send them a copy of the will. You should also notify them they have 40 days to contest the will.
- Copy of the Order of Personal Representative (up to 30 days after receiving the letters of administration) – You should mail a copy of this order to all interested parties, such as heirs and people that have filed a demand for notice.
- Notice of appointment (up to 30 days after receiving the letters of administration) – you must mail a notice of your appointment as a personal representative to all interested parties.
Up to 45 days after receiving your letters of administration, file with the court a statement that you have provided the notices above. As explained in Form 1, the statement must list the name and address of each person to whom you mailed the required document, the title of each document you sent that person, and the date you mailed the document to the person.
You should also make a notice to creditors.
You must publish a notice once every seven days for three consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the county where the decedent resided. The notice must state your name as a personal representative and mailing address. You should inform the creditors they have four months after the notice is first published to present their claims.
Pay Taxes, Claims, and Expenses
You should pay any taxes owed and settle all valid claims against and expenses of the estate.
Distribute the Assets
You should distribute the assets as stated in the probated will. If there is no will, you should follow Arizona’s intestacy laws.
Senior Planning can assist with Arizona Probate
As legal document preparers in the state of Arizona, Senior Planning can assist with both informal and formal probate. Formal Arizona Probate goes through a court hearing while Informal Arizona Probate is administered by a registrar rather than a judge. Although we cannot offer legal advice or represent you in court if Arizona probate is contested, we are able to do the following:
- We will schedule an initial intake meeting where we will gather all the necessary information from you to begin a filing.
- We prepare paperwork for your appointment as personal representative, which is the first step during the probate process. We will prepare all necessary documents. Each situation is unique so the length of time this process takes may vary.
- Once you have been given the right to act as personal representative, we can help catalog and inventory the estate. After everything is inventoried, the inventory list will be filed with the court.
- Once the court approves the inventory of the estate, the estate must be distributed. Managing the distribution of the estate is the responsibility of the court appointed representative. If any real property needs to be transferred, we can help with all necessary paperwork.
- We will help file a Closing Statement with the court, which is the final step in the process. After the closing statement is submitted, a judge must make final approval before the case can be considered completely closed.