Probate Attorney in AZ
Arizona Probate Lawyer
If someone in your family has recently passed away, you may be unsure about your loved one’s final wishes and how to divide the property that has been left behind. At moments like this, turn to an Arizona probate lawyer at Brown & Hobkirk, PLLC.
Our Arizona probate attorneys have more than 20 years of experience handling complex legal matters involving wills, trusts and estates. We know how stressful the property division can be for the surviving family members.
When you turn to Brown & Hobkirk, PLLC for help, you can trust that we will take the time to understand your situation and find a positive resolution for you and your family. Find out today how our knowledgeable probate attorneys can assist you. Call us or reach out to us through our contact page.
What Is Probate?
Probate is the legal process of proving in court that a will is valid and administering the estate according to the will’s provisions. If the deceased person left no will, the estate is considered to be “intestate.” When that is the case, intestacy laws in the state where the deceased person resided control what happens to the deceased person’s assets and property.
Informal vs. Formal Probate
In Arizona, probate proceedings are not legally required if the deceased person’s equity in real property was less than $100,000 or less than $75,000 in personal property. Even in those situations, the probate proceedings can vary.
Under an informal probate process, assets in the estate can be distributed more rapidly and at less cost than in a formal probate proceeding. That is why many families try to avoid the formal process if at all possible.
- Informal probate – If someone’s will is not contested after death, the surviving family members can go through an informal probate proceeding. Informal probate appeals to many families because it is less time-consuming and expensive than the formal probate process. Rather than having a formal court hearing, a court registrar can validate the will, appoint a personal representative of the estate, and quickly close the estate.
- Formal probate – A formal probate proceeding is held if a will is contested or if issues arise about the will’s interpretation. It is also necessary to go through formal probate if the deceased’s will cannot be located. Under formal probate rules, no assets can be distributed until the proceedings are complete and the court has found the will to be valid.
Understanding Arizona Probate Law
Probate proceedings can vary depending on the state of the deceased’s will and the size of the estate. Consider these scenarios.
- The deceased had a will. Having a will in place usually makes probate proceedings easier and faster, but that is not always the case. If the deceased left a will, and no one in the family contests it, the family can usually go through informal probate proceedings quickly and painlessly.
- The deceased did not leave a will. If the deceased did not leave a will or any other instructions about an estate’s distribution, the surviving family members will need to go through the formal probate process.
- Probate for small estates. Arizona does not require probate proceedings if the value of the deceased’s estate does not reach a certain threshold. When the estate’s value does not exceed the statutory threshold and is worth more than any debts left behind, the inheritor of the estate can sign a simple affidavit and request that the probate court release the estate’s assets.
What Are My Duties If I Am Named Executor of the Estate?
The person named as the personal representative of an estate has these duties:
- Find the original will. The original will is often kept by the deceased’s lawyer, but not always.
- File the will with the local probate court. This begins the legal probate process. Even if the family ultimately ends up going the informal probate route, the will still needs to be filed in court.
- Contact any beneficiaries named in the will. The beneficiaries of the will must be notified within 30 days after the executor of the estate is named.
- Take an inventory of the deceased’s assets. Assets of the deceased must be collected and the deceased’s debts must be paid before any asset distribution.
- Publish a notice to creditors. Any creditors of the deceased must be given a chance to collect what money they are owed. The executor must publish a notice in the local newspaper and also send a notice to each specific creditor. The estate’s executor of the estate can deny the claim of any creditor that has not responded to those notices within four months.
- Pay any outstanding taxes or expenses. The executor must pay all expenses, including medical bills, funeral expenses, federal and state income taxes, and probate legal fees, before any assets can be distributed.
What to Expect from the Probate Process
The probate process includes these steps:
- The person who has been named or wants to be named representative of the estate files the will with the local probate court.
- The probate court determines if the person who filed the will should be the estate’s personal representative. If for some good reason that person is not named as the personal representative, state law lists who that person should be. The deceased’s spouse, if still alive, is at the top of the list.
- The probate court gives the personal representative a “letter of administration.” That document gives the representative the legal right to begin managing the estate.
- The personal representative notifies any creditors or inheritors of the estate of the deceased’s passing.
- The personal representative gathers all of the deceased’s assets and any relevant documents.
- Any creditors are paid first from the estate. Other bills, such as funeral expenses, medical bills and taxes, must also be paid.
- The executor distributes any remaining assets to the listed beneficiaries.
Length of the Probate Process
The time involved to complete the probate process depends greatly on several factors, including the value of the estate and whether the will is contested. The process can be completed in a few weeks or months if the estate is small or the informal probate process is used. A formal probate proceeding takes much longer to complete.
Disputes During the Probate Process
Disputes that can arise in probate proceedings include:
- Contested wills
- Documents that are out-of-date
- Alleged mishandling of the estate by the executor
- Disputes over the terms of the will
- Signs of coercion or undue influence on the will’s creation or signing
- Disputes over the estate due to a sudden incapacitation
If any of these disputes arise while you or your family are going through the probate process, it’s best to talk to a probate lawyer. A lawyer can explain the probate laws, explore your legal options, and represent you in court, if necessary.
How an Arizona Probate Lawyer Can Help
Probate disputes can quickly become complicated when a will is contested or another dispute arises. Whether you are the executor of an estate or a beneficiary, an experienced Arizona probate lawyer at Brown & Hobkirk, PLLC can help.
If you are a beneficiary, Brown & Hobkirk, PLLC can communicate with the executor. We can work to answer any questions you might have about what you will receive from the estate. We can help ensure you get what you were promised in the will. We can also help you contest a will, if that becomes necessary. If you believe the executor has mismanaged the estate, we can represent you in legal proceedings to help recover any disputed assets.
If you are an executor, we can help you find any creditors or beneficiaries that need to be notified in a timely manner. We can ensure you are in compliance with Arizona probate law. If a beneficiary or creditor has filed legal action against you, our probate lawyers can represent you in court to provide you with skilled legal protection.
Ready to talk to an Arizona probate lawyer? Contact a firm with more than two decades of experience in probate matters. Call Brown & Hobkirk, PLLC today or visit our contact page to schedule a confidential consultation.