Probate is the name for the court proceeding to allow someone to transfer the assets of a deceased person’s estate. And while many people assume that probate is only necessary to settle the estate of someone who has died without a Will, an individual who has a Will may also end up in probate court. That’s because a Will does not transfer a person’s assets to the heirs automatically…it only states who should receive those assets.
There are different levels of probate in Arizona. A small estate may be settled without filing anything with the court. Larger estates will require a probate proceeding.
Here’s a list of some of the demands of a probate proceeding:
Locate the original copy of the current Will (if you can only find a duplicate copy, the procedure will be much more difficult).
Take the online training required of a personal representative.
File the paperwork to apply to the court to be appointed as personal representative of the estate, and give notice to the other heirs. (There are at least 7 different documents that must be filed just to begin the probate process).
Obtain permission from the court to pay a support allowance to the family if needed.
Prepare an inventory and obtain appraisals of estate assets including brokerage and bank accounts, real estate, mobile homes, automobiles, other vehicles, furniture, art, jewelry and other possessions.
Send a “Notice to Creditors” to all known creditors and publish the Notice in a newspaper acceptable to the court.
Review any creditor claims that have been filed, and approve them. Oppose claims that are incorrect or invalid.
Petition the court for approval to sell real property or perform other duties if necessary.
Prepare detailed final accounting deemed acceptable by the court, and send copies to all beneficiaries.
File the plan of distribution with the court.
Prepare the Report of Final Distribution.
Petition the court for discharge of (the) personal representative. (Not sure what this means?) If you own property in other States, a similar probate case must be filed in those States as well.
Obviously, even a simple probate proceeding is extremely detailed and time consuming. This is why we highly recommend that most people establish a REVOCABLE LIVING TRUST. When a person dies with a Revocable Living Trust, the successor trustee can settle your estate at minimal expense and without going through the entire probate process.
For a person with an estate plan structured around a Revocable Living Trust, no court proceedings should be necessary as long as all of the deceased person’s property is titled in the trust.
For a trust with no tax issues, we often only need to spend a few hours with the successor trustee reviewing the terms of the trust and the necessary next steps.
Larger, more complicated estates may require additional work to appraise property, file the appropriate tax returns, and fund trusts created for the beneficiaries.