PROBATE LAW IN ARIZONA
What Is the Probate Process In Arizona?
Probate is the judicial process through which a decedent’s real and personal property passes to his or her heirs.
Arizona law requires a person who has died (a decedent) without a living trust and who has personal property valued at $75,000 or more (after liens and encumbrances) or $100,000 in real property (after liens and encumbrances), to go through either informal or formal probate.
Informal probate indicates that the personal representative has limited oversight by the court in carrying out administration of the decedent’s estate. This kind of probate usually results in a more efficient winding up of the estate and fewer legal fees
Probate Training Requirements
The law requires that any non-licensed fiduciary must fulfill the state-required non-licensed fiduciary training program prior to appointment as a personal representative or executor of the decedent’s estate.
Informal Probate Time Requirement and Exceptions (ARS §14-3108)
Informal Probate requires that the Petition be filed less than two years from the date of the decedent’s death with some exceptions:
1. Previous proceeding dismissed due to doubt regarding fact of decedent’s death and Petitioner did not delay in moving for a subsequent proceeding.
2. Within two years after the conservator of a missing person establishes the death of the decedent (in other words, the death of more than two years of a missing person).
3. Informal probate may be brought after the two-year period from the date of decedent’s death, but the law limits the personal representatives powers in this instance.
Filing the Probate Petition
Eligibility to file the Application for Probate:
18 or older
A person entitled to property
Named personal representative or executor in the will if any
Creditor and 45 days have passed since decedent’s death
The Petitioner should have others deemed eligible sign waivers of appointment. This allows the Petitioner further support to be appointed.
Interested persons include heirs, devisees, children, spouse, known creditors and others with a claim against the estate. The Petitioner should send the signed waivers to these individuals and entities.
The Petitioner must file a Petition for Letters Testamentary in the Probate Court of the County of the decedent. A relative or interested party of the decedent acts as Petitioner if the decedent died without a will and did not indicate a personal representative. When the decedent died without a will, they died “intestate”.
Probate Bond Requirement
The will typically indicates whether the decedent’s estate requires a bond from the individual acting as personal representative. If the decedent died with a will, they should have a personal representative named. If there is not a will, the court will appoint a personal representative (either the applicant for probate; others may be considered if they let the court know they wish to serve as personal representative).
For an intestate estate, the Petitioner must get waivers from all heirs in order to waive the bond requirement. Once the Petitioner has waivers, they should mail the waivers to all interested persons. If the decedent’s estate requires the Petitioner to post bond, Petitioner will not receive Letters Testamentary until filing proof of bond with the court.
The person who files a Petition/Application must give notice to anyone requesting notice who has a financial or property interest in the estate, interested persons, as well as any personal representative with a valid appointment. The court’s filing fee varies from year to year.
After probate is filed, the Registrar will issue a written statement of informal probate. The Petitioner then has 30 days to provide written information to all heirs, beneficiaries and creditors of admission of the will to probate, along with a copy of the will. The information must include that the heirs and beneficiaries have four months to contest.
If the Petitioner fails to locate persons entitled to notice, Petitioner must publish notice in a newspaper in the county of the decedent once a week for three weeks in a row. Petitioner must ensure an Affidavit of Publication is filed with the Court. The Affidavit of Publication provides proof to the Court of publication of notice to those the Petitioner failed to find.
Required Probate Documents
The Petitioner must file the following documents with the Probate Court:
Probate Information Cover Sheet
Application or Petition for Appointment
Original Will (attached)
Notice of Application
Proof of Mailing Notice of Application
Affidavit of Publication (if publication was necessary)
Statement of Informal Appointment
Letters and Acceptance of Appointment
Order to Personal Representative
Certificate of Completion for Non-Fiduciary Training
Waiver of Right to Appointment
Waiver of Bond
Once the Petitioner properly files the documents with the Court, the Probate Registrar and/or Staff members review the documents. The court will contact the Petitioner to either let them know to come pick up their documents, or Petitioner needs to remedy errors that exist in the documents.
The court provides Letters Testamentary to the personal representative, which letters are the official court document the personal representative gives as proof of probate and his or her appointment as personal representative. Petitioner will need a certified copy of the Letters to prove appointment as personal representative.
Once the court chooses the personal representative, the personal representative is authorized to list and sell the real estate, sell vehicles, change title on accounts, and do what is lawful and necessary to administer the estate of the decedent according to their wishes, if known.
Personal representatives are entitled to a reasonable fee, but it is not required. The administration of an uncontested estate typically takes about six months to a year depending on the size and complexity of the estate. Contested probates are substantially longer and much more expensive.
Formal probate involves filing a Petition with the court and requesting an initial hearing to address one or a number of particular issues. The Court’s involvement exceeds that of informal probate and it’s oversight of the administration of the estate becomes more apparent to the personal representative. This kind of probate typically supersedes informal probate in cost and duration.
Whether you need help with informal or formal probate, please call Probate Law Group at 480.535.8000. We can help.