Many individuals are under the mistaken impression that creating a will is all they need to do to pass on assets after death. On the contrary, when a property owner dies, assets typically go through something called probate. A court-supervised process, probate involves proving that the deceased’s will is authentic and then carrying out their wishes as requested.
Additionally, the court will appoint an executor responsible for handling the estate and paying off any outstanding debts. Keep reading to learn how the probate process starts along with tips on avoiding the procedure all together.
Do All Wills Go Through Probate?
Under Arizona law, wills must go through probate unless the decedent left a trust or dictated beneficiaries for all their assets. Additionally, some types of property transfer automatically without having to go through probate. For example, community property with the right to survivorship and any property held in joint tenancy passes straight to the surviving owner. The law also allows individuals to designate beneficiaries for certain assets, such as life insurance policies and retirement accounts.
It’s worth noting that small estates valued under $75,000 with less than $100,000 worth of property are typically exempt from probate. However, the family still needs to send the court an affidavit before property can be officially transferred.
How Long Do You Have to File Probate After Death in Arizona?
In most cases, the probate process begins when someone files a case with the court. Under Arizona law, individuals must file for probate within two years of the deceased’s passing. At this point, the court will begin the sometimes lengthy process of settling the estate.
Starting the Probate Process
Regardless of how large or complex an estate is, the probate process generally starts in the same manner. After the will and petition for probate have been filed, the county court will appoint a person to serve as personal representative, or executor. If the deceased had a will, they may have named their choice for desired personal representative. The court can opt to name this person or choose someone else to fill the role.
Without a will, the court will rely on state law when selecting a representative. Typically, a surviving spouse is the first choice followed by other immediate family members. The court gives the personal representative letters of administration showing they have the right to manage the estate in question.
If selected as a personal representative, you will need to file the death certificate and the will with the court and publish a notice of probate in the newspaper. The court will likely require that the newspaper be one in general circulation in the area where the deceased lived or the area where they held property. Additionally, you will be responsible for inventorying and locating the deceased’s assets. You may also have to provide an estimate of their worth.
Executors must also mail notices to any known creditors, as well as the deceased’s beneficiaries and heirs. The court will expect you to file proof that notices were published and mailed as required. Once the necessary documents have been filed, the court can begin the probate process. After assets have been distributed and debts paid off, the court will close the estate.
Wondering if you need a probate attorney? At JacksonWhite Law, we’re passionate about protecting what matters to our clients when they can’t be around to do so themselves. Led by attorney Ryan Hodges, our probate team is highly experienced at handling the complexities of probate cases.
Call our Probate team at (480)467-4365 to discuss your case today.