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
- 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.
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.