How Ancillary Probate Works in Arizona


Ancillary probate is an additional probate process that is required when the deceased owns property or assets in multiple states upon time of death. It is important to note that the ancillary probate laws that apply to real estate property depend on where the estate is located, not where the state where the deceased person died.

The most common reason that ancillary probate is necessary is because the deceased owned a vacation home in a different state. Ancillary probate also applies to other assets, such as vehicles titled in a different state or even livestock.

Since ancillary probate is an additional probate process, to get a better understanding of how it works, we will first look at what probate is and what the process looks like.

Probate in Arizona

Probate is the legal process through which the estate (also referred to as assets) of a deceased person are distributed amongst their heirs and beneficiaries after any debts left by the deceased are paid off.

Usually this process is controlled by a will and testament that the deceased has filled out; the will and testament is a legally binding document which expressly states who gets what as well, as what should be done with the estate.

Though it is extremely convenient and helpful to have a will and testament, having one doesn’t mean that you will not be involved in the probate process. Regardless of having a will and testament or not, probate is required for the legal distribution of assets that do not automatically transfer.

The Probate Process

The probate process is:

  1. A family member, friend or even an attorney is appointed as the administrator of the will, in the will they will be referred to as the executor.
  2. The will must be validated by a probate court. This will be done by checking the dates, signatures as well as legitimacy of the notaries.
  3. The deceased’s property will be itemized as well as inventoried to ensure that nothing is stolen.
  4. Properties and assets will be appraised.
  5. All debts or taxes held by the deceased will be paid off by the selling of assets or property.
  6. Once all debts/taxes have been paid off, the remaining assets will be distributed according to the will(if there is one) or according to Arizona law.

When Probate is Required in Arizona

In Arizona, probate is only required when the assets of the deceased did not automatically transfer to their chosen recipients. Most assets in a will are transferred automatically however some assets such as a house or even a bank account are a little trickier and will require probate to transfer them from the deceased’s name to the recipient’s.

Assets such as the home or bank account are not automatically transferred upon someone’s death, as the asset being transferred is legally titled in the deceased’s name and a will does not have the power to automatically transfer ownership of all items to someone else. This means that even though a deceased person’s will is valid and clearly states how their assets will be transferred, larger titled assets will require probate to transfer their ownership.

Probate is not required for the following examples:

  • The assets to be distributed are held in a living trust
  • Contract agreements like annuities and life insurance policies
  • Bank accounts that are payable on death
  • Real estate that is covered by a transfer on death deed

How to Avoid Probate in Arizona

As with almost all legal matters, the best thing you can do is avoid going to court. Thankfully, probate is not always required in the state of Arizona and so long as the proper criteria is met and adhered to, the process of distributing a loved one’s assets will not require a judge to be involved.

Arizona allows inheritors to skip the probate process altogether if their value of all of the personal assets combined is less than $75,000 and the value of any and all real estate is less than $100,000. If the assets being left to the inheritors meet the above criteria, then the inheritors will not have to go through probate to obtain what was left to them.

Instead of going through probate to receive their inheritance, inheritors receiving assets from  an estate that matches the above criteria will only need to fill out an affidavit stating that they are entitled to an asset and then send it and a death certificate to the institution holding the asset. For personal property this process can be done no earlier than 30 days following the death, and for real estate no earlier than 6 months.

FAQ About Probate in Arizona

Q: How do you file for probate?

To file for probate, simply follow this step-by-step guide.

Q: How much does probate cost?

Aside for the simple costs of filing documents and obtaining certified copies of most documents, there is not a flat fee for every probate case. Instead, it is on a case by case basis and the total cost will be dependent on the size of the estate, the amount the executor charges as well as any attorney’s fees.

Q: Do I need probate to get my inheritance?

Probate is not always required, instead it is only required when property/assets are not immediately transferred upon their death.

Receive Help With the Probate Process in Arizona

Probate will be time consuming and doing things on your own will only add more time to receiving your inheritance and adding to your stress. Hiring an experienced probate attorney will alleviate some of the added stress as well as ensure that assets are being properly distributed.

Call our Probate team at (480)467-4365 to discuss your case today.

Contact Probate Attorney Ryan Hodges

Call (480)467-4365 or fill out our contact form to schedule your consultation and discuss your best legal options.