What Exactly is Probate?

It is the court-supervised administration of a decedent’s estate. The process can be anything but simple, depending on the size and nature of the assets to be administered, the number of parties involved, how well those parties get along, and many other issues that may arise. If you have suffered the loss of a family member and are faced with the prospect of dealing with the probate system, you do not have to go through it alone. Our probate attorneys will:

  1. Help you determine whether probate is necessary, or if you would be better served by an alternative procedure
  2. Prepare a Small Estate Affidavit that will make probate unnecessary if the personal property is worth less than $75,000 and real property has an assessed value valuation minus liens of less than $100,000.
  3. Make the necessary court appearances on your behalf.
  4. Oversee the preparation and filing of tax returns for the decedent and the estate.
  5. In many instances, save tax dollars for those who receive money and property from the estate.
  6. Help resolve disputes between the parties involved equitably.

Give advice about “stretch out” IRAs and other retirement account issues. We have efficiently guided many families through this difficult process and can do the same for you and your family.

Probate Administration

When a family member or loved one dies, his or her assets and property will be subject to a probate proceeding unless the asset or property passes by operation of law. The probate process is the steps needed to legally administer the assets and debts of the decedent and eventually distribute the assets to the people entitled to them. A Personal Representative named in the Will (or one that is appointed by the court if the Will doesn’t name one or if there is no Will) is charged with taking care of and handling the estate. Probate is handled in a probate court that is governed by state laws. Probate administration involves collecting assets, paying debts, resolving disputes and distributing the remaining property according to the Will or law.

Who’s Responsible For Paying Debts?

The Personal Representative must allow time to identify creditors and then pay those creditors using estate assets. The Personal Representative must publish notice to creditors of the decedent’s death in a newspaper of general circulation and then must wait 4 months before any unknown claims are barred. The Personal Representative must allow or disallow any known debts and must notify any known but disputed creditor by mail if that creditor’s claim is to be barred.

Who Distributes Assets?

The Personal Representative is responsible for distributing assets and carrying out the decedent’s intentions expressed in a Will. This is accomplished by recording deeds for real property and by distributing other property in kind or in cash once the property has been liquidated. There is a statutory preference that assets be distributed “in kind” if possible.

How Does Probate Start?

Upon informal application of formal petition, the Court will admit the authenticity of a Will and issue letters of authority to the person named in a Will or with a statutory preference to act as the Personal Representative. Interested persons typically have 4 months after notice of an informal application to object to the authenticity of a Will or the right of a person to serve as the Personal Representative.

For What Is The Personal Representative Responsible?

  • Finding and managing the decedent’s assets. This includes making an inventory of bank accounts, investments, real estate and vehicles within 90 days of being appointed
  • Taking care of end-of-life details like contacting the IRS, Social Security Administration, health insurance companies and banks to inform the organizations that the decedent has passed
  • Paying income and estate taxes
  • Paying debts
  • Supervising the distribution of property

When Is Probate Needed?

Probate is necessary when the estate has more than $75,000 of personal property, including bank or investment accounts or more than $100,000 in real property that does not pass by operation of law.

How Long Does Administration Take?

The minimum time is about six months. The actual time will depend on when the assets and debts have been administered and whether there are any disputes about how the assets are to be distributed.

We can help you with probate and non-probate transfers. Call us for a consultation about what is needed and an estimate of the time and cost involved in your particular case.

What Is Probate?

Probate is a legal proceeding that occurs after a person dies. It confirms the validity of the decedent’s Last Will and Testament and provides a structure for distributing the decedent’s assets to the people described in a Will or by intestate succession if there is no Will. The probate process typically includes the following:

  • Proving that the Will is valid. If the Will is valid—as verified by the court—the Will determines who gets what. If the Will is invalid or only part of the estate is covered by the Will, state intestate succession laws determine who receives what.
  • Identifying the decedent’s property
  • Having the property appraised
  • Paying the decedent’s debts and taxes and expenses of administration, including legal fees and funeral expenses

Distributing the assets according to the Will

When Does Probate Apply?

Probate is required in Arizona to determine the validity of a Will if there are assets that do not pass by operation of law. Examples of assets passing by operation of law are described below under “Probate Assets.” There will be a probate whether or not there is a Will. The probate court resolves disputes about the value or distribution of particular assets. Probate lawyers help sort out estate issues and provide guidance if there is a dispute about the validity or interpretation of the Will. Probate ends when the probate court closes the estate.

What Is Probate Court?

This is the court that resolves disputes arising during the administration and is the forum where concerns may be addressed about the proper administration or distribution of estate assets.

When to Notify the Public? Arizona requires that you publish notice in a newspaper of general circulation which gives creditors four months to file a proper claim.

When Is Probate Necessary?

Small estates—typically with personal property (including bank accounts) worth less than $75,000 and real estate worth less than $100,000—may use a summary probate procedure. A probate lawyer can help determine if probate is necessary.

Probate Assets

Probate doesn’t apply to every asset. Probate assets are assets owned solely by the decedent at the time of death. Non-probate assets are transferred by operation of law. Non-probate assets include property held as joint tenants with rights of survivorship; community property with rights of survivorship; bank accounts in the name of more than one person; beneficiary deeds; accounts with either POD or TOD designations; and life insurance, retirement accounts, and annuities with named beneficiaries.

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