Trustworthy Attorneys Manage Probate & Estate Administration in Arizona
Sun City West lawyers provide advice and representation for executors and administrators
If you have recently lost a loved one, you may be faced with the need to probate their estate. Probate refers to the court process of validating a will so an executor can implement the decedent’s wishes. If there is no valid will, the court appoints an administrator to settle the estate. Whether a will exists or not, the process of settling an estate can be complex, so the person who assumes the duty needs the advice of a knowledgeable probate lawyer. At Pennington Law — Estate Planning, PLLC, we have extensive experience giving executors and administrators sound advice, which can be critical since they can be held personally liable for losses due to errors or misconduct. We can guide you through the complex process quickly and efficiently, so you maximize the value of the estate for your loved one’s heirs.
What are the responsibilities of an executor or personal representative?
A will names an executor to settle the estate, sometimes with that person’s prior knowledge and consent. When the named executor is unable to serve, the court can appoint another responsible party. Unfortunately, most executors have no experience with probating a will. When there is no will, the least-reluctant close relative usually acts as personal representative of the estate, after getting court approval. The executor or personal representative is responsible for such tasks as:
- Filing the will with the probate court
- Getting court approval as estate administrator and posting bond
- Developing the best strategy for fairly and expeditiously settling the estate
- Finding and assembling assets
- Paying creditors and claimants
- Collecting amounts owed the estate
- Closing and opening bank accounts
- Transferring assets from the deceased to the estate
- Paying current and delinquent taxes as well as estate taxes
- Valuing, managing, preserving and liquidating the estate
- Locating beneficiaries
- Hiring experts, when appropriate
Estate representatives can easily make mistakes due to inexperience, stress and hasty decisions. This can lead to unnecessary delays and losses to the estate beneficiaries. We guide clients through every step of the probate process with reliable, detailed advice, so your loved one’s estate can be settled as efficiently, quickly and easily as possible.
Valuing an estate during the probate process
Our firm assists executors with the often arduous process of collecting, valuing, protecting and liquidating the assets of the estate. You may have no idea of the value of your loved one’s estate until you are deep into the process. When needed, we can call upon accountants, financial advisors, real estate agents, property managers and other professionals to help with valuation of assets, including such unique properties as antiques, rare books, automobiles and other collectibles.
How are disputes handled?
Prudent estate planning can avoid many of the disputes that arise in settling an estate. However, even in apparently straightforward probate cases, there are sometimes disagreements among beneficiaries or between beneficiaries and the executor. These can take various forms, such as:
- Challenging the validity of a will — A court can invalidate a will if it appears there has been undue influence or fraud in its creation or amendment.
- Challenging interpretation of a will’s language — When there are competing clauses or ambiguous phrases, a court can declare part or all of the will void for vagueness. This creates a situation of partial intestacy, where assets that are left out pass according to the state’s laws of inheritance.
- Accusing the executor of estate mismanagement — An executor has a fiduciary duty to manage estate assets for the good of the beneficiaries. He or she can be held personally liable for financial losses caused by negligence or misconduct.
It is often possible to reach a negotiated solution to estate disputes. However, parties are sometimes determined to escalate the conflict to the probate judge. When that happens, we are prepared to defend our clients’ interests. Whether representing the executor or a beneficiary, we exercise the utmost professionalism as we pursue the best possible outcome.
Contact an experienced and knowledgeable Arizona probate firm
Pennington Law — Estate Planning, PLLC provides a full range of probate court and estate administration services in Surprise, Sun City West, Buckeye and vicinity. Call 623-208-7867 or contact us online to schedule a consultation. Home and hospital visits are available.