In the state of Arizona, probate is only required if the decedent has any assets that did not transfer automatically upon their death. These assets tend to be titled individually in the decedent’s name and will require a probate court to transfer the title of ownership to the intended beneficiary.

Need to speak to an experienced probate attorney?

Get in touch with us today!
Contact Us Now

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

 

Which Assets Are Subject to Probate?

The following assets are subject to probate:

  • Individual bank and brokerage accounts
  • Real estate held individually or as tenants in common
  • Personal property, such as vehicles, art, collectibles, and jewelry

These assets (sometimes known as probate assets) cannot pass to the decedent’s heirs until a judge transfers title of ownership through probate. As long as the decedent has a will, their probate assets will transfer to their intended beneficiaries. If the decedent died without a will (known as intestacy), their probate assets will transfer to their legal heirs according to the state’s laws of intestate succession. Unfortunately, intestate succession does not leave family members with much say in the distribution of assets, and it can significantly lengthen the probate process.

In Arizona, intestacy laws give preference to the surviving spouse and children (ARS 14-2102). If the decedent was single and did not have children, the estate can pass to the decedent’s parents, siblings, or other extended family members (ARS 14-2103). In rare cases where there are no immediate or extended family members to claim the assets, the state can claim the estate (ARS 14-2105).

Which Assets Are Not Subject to Probate?

Probate can be a long and costly process, so it’s always best to avoid probate court as much as possible. Fortunately, most assets can transfer to beneficiaries outside of probate with proper planning. Assets that include a contractual beneficiary are designed to automatically transfer to the intended owner upon the decedent’s death. The financial institution holding the assets will usually transfer the assets as soon as they receive a copy of the death certificate. These assets (sometimes called non-probate assets) include:

  • Bank and brokerage accounts with a payable-on-death or transfer-on-death beneficiary
  • Real property held in joint tenancy or as tenants in the entirety
  • Life insurance policies
  • Retirement accounts
  • Trusts

If the decedent has properly positioned all of their property as non-probate assets, probate will not be required. That said, even if all of your assets are positioned to bypass probate, it may still be wise to draft a will, so it’s important to discuss your needs with a qualified estate planning attorney.

Is It Possible for Probate Assets to Bypass Probate Court?

The state of Arizona allows small estates to transfer probate assets outside of probate court under the following conditions:

  • The decedent’s personal property is less than $75,000
  • The decadent’s real property is less than $100,000

Under the small estate exemption, a family member will need to submit an affidavit with the county court. The affidavit will list an inventory of the decedent’s assets, the names and addresses of family members, and a copy of the will. Once granted, the estate’s personal representative will be free to transfer the assets with a simple rubber-stamp approval from a probate judge.

What Happens During the Probate Process?

There are 5 important steps in the probate process:

  1. Validate the will
  2. Appoint a personal representative
  3. Gather the assets
  4. Settle the liabilities
  5. Distribute the assets

Validate the Will

If the decedent left a will, the probate court will need to validate the document. Specifically, the court needs to ensure the testator was over 18 and of sound mind (ARS 14-2501), and that the testator was not subject to undue influence. They’ll also check to make sure the document is properly signed and dated by the testator and at least two witnesses (ARS 14-2502). If the will isn’t notarized, the judge may summon the witnesses to testify as to the document’s authenticity; if the will is notarized, it’s consider self-proved and will not require calling the witnesses.

Appoint a Personal Representative

If the decedent nominated an executor in their will, this individual will serve as the estate’s personal representative. In the absence of a will, a family member can petition the court to be appointed as personal representative. If the judge cannot find a qualified family member, or if there is too much discord among family members to agree on a personal representative, the judge can appoint a third-party special administrator to handle the estate’s affairs.

Gather the Assets

The personal representative will be asked to take an inventory of the decedent’s assets. This includes collecting account statements for liquid assets, and hiring professional appraisers to determine the fair market value of illiquid assets such as real estate, art, jewelry, etc.

Settle the Liabilities

Once the personal representative has an inventory of the assets, he or she will need to use the assets to satisfy any outstanding liabilities in the following order:

  1. Administration expenses (court costs, legal fees, appraisals, etc.)
  2. Funeral expenses
  3. Debts
  4. Taxes (a final income tax return, and estate taxes if applicable)
  5. All other claims

In most cases, the personal representative will use the liquid assets (bank accounts, brokerage accounts, cash, etc.) to cover the estate’s liabilities. If there aren’t enough liquid assets, the personal representative is authorized to sell assets to cover the debts. If there are more liabilities than assets, the estate is considered insolvent, and all of the assets will be liquidated to cover as much of the liabilities as possible.

Distribute the Assets

When the liabilities have been settled and the final distribution is approved by the court, the personal representative can finally transfer any remaining assets to the decedent’s beneficiaries. As long as there is a valid will, the distribution will be dictated by the decedent’s instructions. In the absence of a will, the distribution will proceed according to the laws of intestate succession.

Formal vs. Informal Probate

Informal probate takes place when there are no contests to the will or objections to the distribution. Informal probate allows the personal representative to manage their responsibilities with minimal court supervision, so it tends to be faster and more cost-effective. Generally speaking, informal probate proceedings can wrap up in 4 – 6 months.

If anybody contests the will or objects to any aspect of the probate process, the proceedings will shift to formal probate. With formal probate, the court will hold additional hearings to address the contests and objections, and the judge will need to supervise the personal representative’s actions. Formal probate proceedings can take up to a year or longer.

 

Do You Need Help with Probate Matters?

As you can see, AZ probate laws can be complex. It requires a number of steps and without the right approach, it’s easy to get lost in the details.

 

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

Schedule Your Consultation

Fill out the form below to get your consultation and discuss your best legal options.