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Arizona Probate and Estate Administration Lawyers

When your family has lost a loved one, part of winding up their affairs will likely include probating your loved one’s estate. Probate and estate administration allows you to gather your loved one’s assets, settle their debts, and distribute the remainder according to your loved one’s will or state law. Depending on the nature of your loved one’s assets, setting up and managing an estate can involve a complex process. An experienced probate lawyer could help make estate administration easier for your family as you also grieve and heal from your loved one’s death.

Contact Pennington Law, PLLC, for a free initial case evaluation to learn more about probate and the estate administration process. Let an Arizona probate attorney from our firm assist you and your family with managing your loved one’s estate and winding up their affairs. We serve clients in Sun City, Buckeye, Peoria, Surprise, and the surrounding Arizona communities.

What Is Probate in Arizona?

Probate refers to the process of administering a deceased person’s estate. During probate, the court appoints an executor, administrator, or personal representative to manage the estate administration. Estate administration involves collecting the decedent’s assets, selling property to generate funds, paying the decedent’s remaining liability, and distributing any remaining assets to beneficiaries according to a will left by the decedent or according to Arizona intestacy law.

What Is Part of the Probate Estate?

The probate estate includes, with a few exceptions, any assets owned by the decedent at their death. Examples of probate assets include:

  • Real estate
  • Vehicles
  • Household items such as clothing, appliances, and furniture
  • Valuables such as jewelry, artwork, and collectibles
  • Financial assets, including bank accounts, securities, and retirement/pension benefits
  • Business ownership interests

The probate estate does not include any assets that automatically transfer upon the decedent’s death, such as financial assets with a beneficiary or transfer designation or titled assets held as joint tenants with rights of survivorship or community property with rights of survivorship.

Do All Estates Require Probate?

Arizona law provides a process to distribute assets from smaller estates without going through formal probate. A “small estate” beneficiary can claim their inheritance from the party holding the assets by completing a small estate affidavit form and attaching a copy of the decedent’s death certificate. Requirements for claiming personal property through the small estate process include the following:

  • The estate’s total value of personal property cannot exceed $75,000.
  • An heir or beneficiary must wait at least 30 days following the decedent’s death.
  • The estate cannot have an active formal probate proceeding.

Requirements to obtain real estate include:

  • The total value of real estate held by the estate cannot exceed $100,000.
  • The heir or beneficiary must wait at least six months following the decedent’s death.
  • The estate had no personal representative, or the appointed representative has not undertaken any estate administration for at least a year and has yet to file a closing statement with the court.
  • The estate must have paid all funeral expenses and unsecured debts.
  • No other person has an interest in the property.
  • The estate owes no federal estate tax.
Arizona Probate Explained

What Is Arizona Probate Law Regarding Wills?

Arizona has specific requirements for wills. These requirements include:

  • The testator must be at least 18 years old.
  • The testator must have testamentary capacity at the time they signed the will. Testamentary capacity means understanding the consequences of making a will, understanding the nature and extent of one’s property, and making reasonable decisions about the distribution of your property and other matters addressed by your will.
  • The testator must sign the will freely and voluntarily, which means they do not suffer from duress, coercion, or undue influence.
  • The testator must sign the will in the presence of at least two mentally-competent adult witnesses. Witnesses cannot include named beneficiaries or anyone related to a beneficiary by blood, adoption, or marriage.

Although Arizona law does not require the notarization of wills, obtaining notarization of the testator’s and witnesses’ signatures can make the will “self-proving.” A self-proving will requires the testator and witnesses to sign an affidavit before a notary public, who will notarize the affidavit. When presenting a self-proving will for probate, the witnesses do not need to testify in court regarding the will’s validity.

What Are the Responsibilities of an Executor or Personal Representative

The primary duties of an estate’s executor or administrator include the following:

  • Presenting a will to the court for probate
  • Securing a court appointment to serve as the personal representative of the estate
  • Opening a bank account for the estate
  • Locating, gathering, and preserving estate assets
  • Collecting any money due to the decedent or estate
  • Transferring titles or deeds to the decedent’s assets to the estate
  • Paying the decedent’s outstanding liabilities, final income tax return, and the estate’s taxes
  • Liquidating/selling estate assets if necessary to generate funds.
  • Retaining and paying professional services providers such as accountants and lawyers
  • Locating beneficiaries and heirs
  • Maintaining an accounting of the estate
  • Distributing remaining estate assets according to the terms of the will or intestacy laws
  • Closing the estate with the court

Estate administration can seem daunting, and you might need help to handle the process. An Arizona probate lawyer from Pennington Law, PLLC, can serve as a critical resource to guide you through each stage of the probate process.

Arizona Probate Executor
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How to Avoid Probate in Arizona


Several estate planning tools can help your family avoid probating your estate after you have passed away. These tools include:

  • Trusts – Creating a trust during your lifetime can avoid the need to probate assets you place in the trust. Those assets become the trust’s property rather than remaining in your probate estate. You can structure trusts to allow you to continue using your assets during your life. You may designate your heirs as successor beneficiaries of the trust following your death. Alternatively, you can design the trust to terminate upon death and distribute assets to your heirs.
  • Beneficiary Designations – Certain types of assets, such as life insurance policies, pension benefits, and annuities, may offer the option of a beneficiary designation that pays the funds from those assets to another person after your death rather than paying the assets to your probate estate.
  • Transfer/Pay-on-Death Designations – You may also have the option of placing transfer-on-death/pay-on-death designations on certain financial accounts, such as checking/savings accounts or certificates of deposit.
  • Joint Tenancies – You can hold certain assets like real estate in a joint tenancy with right of survivorship. When you pass away, your ownership interest in the asset immediately transfers to your surviving co-tenants. Ultimately, the last surviving joint tenant takes full ownership of the asset.

Valuing an Estate During the Probate Process

An executor or administrator must calculate the value of an estate during probate to determine eligibility for small estate proceedings, tax liabilities, and how to distribute inheritances. At Pennington Law, PLLC, our legal team can connect you with experts such as accountants, financial advisors, real estate agents, forensic accountants, and valuation experts to help you assign valuations to significant estate assets such as real property, vehicles, jewelry, artwork, antiques, and collectibles.

Arizona Probate Complex

What Is Formal vs. Informal Probate?

In Arizona, courts may conduct a formal or informal probate process. Courts use informal probate for estates where the decedent left a will, no one has contested the will, and no one disputes the right of any of the named beneficiaries to receive their inheritance. Conversely, courts use the formal probate process when the court must intervene to resolve any disputes over the will or estate management.

How Long Does Probate Take in Arizona?

While most estate administrations wrap up within a year, the exact timeline of your family’s probate matter will depend on various factors such as:

  • The value of the estate
  • The amounts of the decedent’s liabilities
  • The complexity of estate assets, especially if the decedent left valuable real estate or business interests
  • The number of beneficiaries
  • Any legal challenges to the will or estate administration

According to Arizona law, the probate process must last at least four months to allow creditors to file claims against the estate or enable interested parties to challenge the will or the personal representative’s performance.

What Are Common Probate and Estate Planning Disputes?

Some of the most common legal disputes that arise during probate and estate administration include:

  • Challenging the Validity of a Will – Any person with interest in a decedent’s estate may object to admitting the will to probate by questioning its validity. Frequent grounds for challenging the validity of a will include fraud, duress/coercion, undue influence, lack of testamentary capacity, and defective execution of the will.
  • Challenging Interpretation of a Will’s Language – Beneficiaries and other interested parties may also raise legal challenges to the personal representative’s interpretation of the will’s provisions. For example, a beneficiary might argue that a will provision entitles them to specific assets or a more significant portion of the estate.
  • Accusing the Executor of Estate Mismanagement – Beneficiaries and creditors might also blame the estate’s personal representative for mismanagement or misconduct, such as failing to preserve estate assets, faulty accounting, improper distributions, or stealing estate property.

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Arizona Probate Disputes
Probate and Estate Administration Probate and Estate Administration

What Can a Probate and Estate Administration Attorney Do?

When your loved one or the court has appointed you to serve as personal representative for your loved one’s estate, turn to a probate and estate administration attorney from Pennington Law, PLLC, for legal assistance that includes:

  • Helping you secure an appointment as executor or administrator
  • Reviewing the terms of your loved one’s will and explaining how they wanted you to distribute their assets
  • Assisting with locating, transferring, or retitling estate assets
  • Evaluating creditor claims
  • Drafting and filing court paperwork
  • Working with financial experts to value the estate and calculate estate taxes
  • Advocating for your and the estate’s interests if creditors or heirs file legal challenges

Arizona Rules of Probate Procedure

Probate proceedings in Arizona use a unique set of rules called the Rules of Probate Procedure. In addition to the statewide rules of procedure, each county probate court may adopt local rules to govern probate proceedings.

Contact Our Surprise, Sun City, Peoria, and Buckeye, AZ, Probate & Estate Administration Lawyer Today

If you’ve lost a loved one, turn to an experienced Arizona probate lawyer for the qualified and compassionate legal assistance you need and deserve. Contact Pennington Law, PLLC, today for a consultation to learn more about how our firm can assist you during this challenging time.