Arizona Probate Process. When a person dies, the properties on his or her estate usually have to pass through probate before getting to the beneficiaries. Usually, someone close to the deceased has the responsibility of distribution of the deceased person’s assets. This person bears a lot of responsibility and is bound by Arizona Probate Law to practice a great deal of oversight and care.
Today’s guest blog is by Oklahoma Estate Attorneys, PLLC.
Arizona Probate Process
More specifically, Arizona Probate laws involve taking the following steps:
• Initiate probate and prove the will. The decedent’s Will is the starting point for determining who should handle the estate because it should name a personal representative. In case a person dies without a Will, the court appoints a personal representative. The personal representative initiates probate by filing a petition for probate with the court. Before opening the probate estate, the court must first determine that the Will is valid.
• Obtain letters of administration. After deeming the Will valid, and formally appointing a personal representative, the court provides the appointed person with letters of administration. Letters of administration provide the personal representative with authority to act on the estate’s behalf. The personal representative must produce these letters to financial institutions as evidence of his authority to handle the decedent’s affairs.
• Post bond – Personal representatives must be bonded unless the heirs and devisees, or the Will itself, specifically waive this requirement. Having the bond waived can expedite probate, so it is generally in a personal representative’s interest to seek a waiver. Personal representatives can petition the court to waive the bond requirement or modify the bond amount, and it is within the court’s discretion to do so.
• Give notice.
• Take possession of Estate Assets – In some cases, certain properties on the estate can go directly to the beneficiaries; if the court deems it legal in that particular case.
• Create an inventory – It is the representative’s responsibility to locate, appraise and inventory all the properties on the estate. The inventory also has to give important information about the properties including monetary value.
• Pay taxes.
• Manage and preserve the estate – Under probate law, personal representatives have a fiduciary duty to manage and preserve the estate appropriately. They must apply the same standard of care that is required of trustees, and any breach of this duty may cause the personal representative to become personally liable for loss to interested parties.
• Managing the estate includes not spending estate funds frivolously; as well as using estate funds for legitimate costs that arise. For instance, personal representatives may use estate funds to pay for funeral expenses, court costs, and attorney fees; and they can charge a reasonable fee for their time and services. Personal representatives should also use estate funds to repay creditors and lenders where appropriate.
• Set aside community property – Arizona is a community property state. So any property acquired during the marriage belongs to the married couple in equal shares under the law. Community property should be set aside before the personal representative transfers estate property to beneficiaries.
• If the decedent was married, then the personal representative must make an accounting to set aside community property for the spouse. They must also determine how much of the remaining property should be devised under the Will or transferred under Arizona probate law.
• Distribute estate property. Distributing estate property is the final step for personal representatives. Personal representatives should not take this step until first repaying creditors and handling tax issues. The remainder of the estate can then be divided and distributed. If the decedent left a Will, the personal representative must make distributions according to its terms. In the absence of a Will, personal representatives must make distributions in accordance with the Arizona Probate Code.
Arizona Probate Process
Oklahoma Estate Attorneys, PLLC offers extensive experience and expertise in Estate Planning, Family Estate Planning and Probate matters.