When you pass away, all of your individually-owned assets are “locked” until someone receives court authority to access them. In probate, that individual is known as your estate’s personal representative (also known as an executor in other states). Whether you nominate the personal representative in your will or a family member petitions to serve as the personal representative, he or she can’t take control of your assets until the probate court formally appoints them and issues Letters Testamentary to prove their authority. As such, the personal representative won’t be able to access or sell any estate assets until probate is opened.

Note that this rule only applies to a decedent’s individually-owned assets—it does not apply to assets with a joint owner with rights of survivorship (JTWROS). Probating the decedent’s share of ownership in JTWROS property isn’t necessary, and the joint owner is free to sell the asset immediately after the decedent passes away (though the title company may need to see a copy of the death certificate).

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I did not meet personally with anyone from the JacksonWhite Law firm. Mr. Hodges was my contact at the firm. The entire probate process was handled through emails and USPS since I am out of state. The probate process went very smooth. The process was clearly explained, I understood my responsibility and I was kept up to date on the status. I was particularly impressed with the timeliness of email responses to my emails.read more
Diane E.
21:39 29 Jan 20
I worked with Ryan Hodges for assistance managing the probate process when my father passed away. Not only was Ryan extremely timely with all correspondence and had an excellent turnaround time on all phases of the probate process, he was also consistently available to answer any questions I had, whether through email or by phone. I strongly recommend him as a top probate/estate attorney.read more
Kelly J.
02:07 03 Jan 20
Mr. Hodges was a huge asset in helping me handle my mother-in-law's estate. Most impressive, besides his knowledge and follow through with the legal aspects of closing an estate, was his prompt and professional communication. I happily recommend Ryan Hodges at Jackson White Law.read more
Lori F.
17:07 24 Sep 19
I highly recommend Jackson White Attorneys At Law. I worked with Ryan Hodges, Attorney for nearly 2 years on a very complicated estate involving 5 states. Ryan was very responsive to all of my needs, held my hand as I struggled to deal with other states and never let me down. He answers email promptly and files documents as quickly as possible. He also directed me to a good accounting firm that handled the tax returns. I live in Kansas so working with an attorney over 1000 miles away was unsettling at the least but from day one Ryan calmed my fears and guided me effortlessly through this process. I would also like to state that the fees were appropriate and affordable.read more
T S.
01:55 06 Sep 19
Ryan Hodges was more then helpful when my Mom passed away suddenly without a will. His advice directed me to the small estate form, checked back to see if that would work for me and told me to contact him if I needed any help with the paperwork or representation. All of which gave me some peace of mind.read more
Mary K.
19:56 28 Aug 19
Ryan Hodges did an amazing job with my case. Even though I don't live in the greater Phoenix area I still used Ryan services because he came highly recommended. He set up a phone court appearance instead of having me drive 3 hours into Phoenix. In our initial consultation he laid out several different avenues that the case might go. In the end the case went in my favor.read more
Paul J.
21:11 27 Aug 19
To Whom It May Concern:Recently I was in need of legal assistance and Ryan Hodges from Jackson-White Attorney’s at law was invaluable to me. I had sought legal assistance from other sources and was told this was not worth their time. Mr. Hodges helped me through probate when a close friend died and left me as her personal representative.Mr. Hodges is what, in my mind, an attorney should be. He was there to help me through a very difficult time. There were many questions and areas I did not understand and he was always ready to help me, whether it was just a simple text, email or a phone call. He was there. Ryan Hodges is an asset to the team of Jackson-White and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend him to anyone in need of legal assistance.Sincerely,Dee Hutchinsonread more
Dee H.
21:36 29 Jul 19
Ryan Hodges assisted me with deciding what direction to go in the probate of my brothers will. I hope it will not get him in trouble but he advised me that the estate was small enough that we did not need a lawyer. This impressed me as another lawyer wanted $4500 for an estate under $10000! He gave me information and a link for the necessary forms. If I ever need a lawyer I will certainly contact Ryan.read more
Tom S.
13:28 15 Jun 19
I contacted Jackson White Law by email on Thursday evening, with a question. I really didn't expect an answer until Monday at the earliest, but I received an email from Ryan Hodges in response on Friday Morning! I have to say I am impressed. He answered my question thoroughly and was very helpful. He put my mind at ease and I am eternally grateful. I would recommend this law firm and Ryan to anyone seeking legal advise.read more
Elizabeth H.
05:18 01 Jun 19
I have used attorney, Ryan Hodges at Jackson White Law Firm, for various stages of my mother's trust, from beginning to end. He is an excellent attorney to work with; as he is not only professional in every way, but willing to help out at any stage of the legal process. He communicates well and offered advice and leadership to me at all times. I would recommend him to anyone looking for a superior attorney.read more
Kay E.
10:39 25 May 19
With the help of Ryan Hodges of Jackson White Law, I recently completed a very complicated probate which involved probate in two states, the Federal Government and the Canadian Government. There is no way I could have accomplished this without the constant help and guidance from Ryan. He was with me every step of the way. I hope you never have to be involved with this process, I strongly suggest you call Ryan Hodges to assist you. Great job! Thanks Ryan!read more
michael R.
20:25 09 Jun 18
Ryan Hodges is amazing! My mom is elderly and needed help sorting out the details of probate in AZ. Ryan was able to navigate through the paperwork to help my mom get the estate settled. Ryan always returned phone calls and went above and beyond when she needed help.read more
Lee V.
17:48 25 Apr 18
Ryan Hodges of Jackson White Attorneys made a long drive to meet with us as we were grieving the recent loss of our 41-year-old son. He guided us through every step of the probate process. He made each step clear to us and continued to show understanding of our situation, even though unusual complications were frequent, due to the nature of our son's former business. His kindness, knowledge, and efficiency will always be remembered and appreciated.read more
Robert & Rebecca B.
15:04 02 Apr 18


What is Probate?

Probate is the process of settling a decedent’s liabilities and distributing their remaining assets. Most probate cases are guided by the decedent’s last will and testament, where the testator (the person writing the will) nominates a personal representative, chooses a guardian for minor children (if applicable), and bequeaths his or her assets. When someone dies without a will, their estate is considered “intestate” and will be probated according to the state’s intestacy laws.

In the state of Arizona, probate is guided by the Uniform Probate Code (UPC). The UPC has been adopted in its entirety by 18 states and partially by most other states, and is intended to unify probate proceedings across state lines. The guidelines in the UPC are codified in Arizona Revised Statutes Title 14 (ARS 14).

How to Be Appointed as Personal Representative of an Estate

If you have been nominated to serve as the personal representative to an estate, or if you wish to be appointed personal representative to an intestate estate, you’ll need to file a petition for probate with the probate court in the county where the decedent lived or owned property. Every county has its own forms and requirements, so it’s best to check the county probate court’s website or call the court clerk to determine exactly what you need to submit. As an example, here’s what the Maricopa County probate court requires:

How to Sell a Car in Probate

Once you have been formally appointed by the court, the process of selling the decedent’s car is mostly the same as how you’d go about selling your own vehicle:

  1. Determine the fair market value – in most cases, checking the car’s value on a site like Kelley Blue Book is the only due diligence you’ll need to do. If the car is a rare or specialty vehicle, you may need to have the vehicle professionally appraised.
  2. Place an ad for sale – keep in mind that you’ll want to place a for-sale-ad even if you already have a private sale lined up. If you sell the car without attempting to get a better offer, you may be in trouble if an interested party to the estate files a complaint and is able to prove that you sold the car for less than you could have.
  3. Collect the proceeds – when you sell the vehicle, have the buyer write the check out to the estate. If you get cash for the sale, deposit the funds in the estate checking account as soon as possible.
  4. Record a bill of sale – it’s important to document everything you do on behalf of the estate, and collecting receipts is a big part of that responsibility.
  5. Sign over the title – as the personal representative, you have the right to sign over the title by signing your own name (i.e. you don’t have to sign the decedent’s name). It’s best to print your name, sign the document, and then add “personal representative.”
  6. Have the title notarized – both the personal representative and the buyer should sign in the presence of a notary public, and have the transfer notarized.

After you have sold the car and transferred the title, don’t forget to call the auto insurance company and cancel the decedent’s insurance policy. Auto insurance companies may be willing to issue a refund for premiums paid after the vehicle was sold, but the process is a whole lot easier when you cancel the policy promptly. Note that you may need to provide the insurance company with a copy of the death certificate and your Letters Testamentary to validate your authority.

What to Do If There is a Lien on the Car

If there’s a lien on the car, you’ll need to settle the note and obtain a clear title before you can sell the car. Call the bank or finance company that’s carrying the note, request a payoff amount, and submit the appropriate payment along with a copy of the death certificate and the Letters Testamentary. Upon receiving these, the finance company will issue a clear title, made out to the estate. If you need to use the proceeds of the sale to pay off the car loan, as the buyer to meet you at the bank or finance company to complete the sale.

The Small Estate Exemption

The state of Arizona offers a small estate exemption that allows smaller estates to complete the probate process by affidavit rather than actually going through probate. To qualify, the estate must have less than $100,000 in real property (house, land, condo) and less than $75,000 in personal property (vehicles, financial accounts, personal possessions, etc.). The party managing the estate will need to wait at least 6 months after the decedent’s passing in order to allow enough time for the decedent’s creditors to submit claims to the estate. Once the estate’s debts, taxes, and bills are paid, the managing party is free to sell the assets, distribute the proceeds, and file the small estate affidavit with the county probate court.

Call Probate Attorney Ryan Hodges at (480)467-4365 to discuss your case today.

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