24 Mar 2014

Probate describes a process where the Superior Court of Arizona appoints a personal representative of the estate of the deceased person to oversee certain tasks. Under Arizona probate laws recently passed, a person who is going to serve as a Personal Representative must take an online training course before they can be appointed.

Probate is needed to certain transfer property whether you have a will or not.But before we go too far, there are a couple of definition you should understand.

Dying “intestate” means the person did not have a will. In that situation who gets their property is determined by the probate laws of Arizona, not by them. If the person had a will, that is called dying “testate” If all of the persons property is in joint names or if there is a designated beneficiary, it still may not be necessary to probate the will.

So the normal way we transfer ownership of property that comes with a title is to sign the title over to someone else. An example is signing the back of your car title to transfer it to a purchaser. After a person dies, signing their name becomes a little difficult. And so a Court must authorize another individual called a “Personal Representative” to sign transfers of titled property for the decedent.

If the deceased had no assets or if no assets remain titled in the name of the deceased, then a probate is probably unnecessary.
Second, if there are probatable assets, look at the amount. If the real property located within Arizona does not exceed $100,000 (after liens like mortgages), and at least 6 months have passed since the death the real property can be transferred by affidavit. If the personal property in the estate is worth $75,000 or less, it too can be collected by affidavit. Probate generally takes about 5 months, longer for estates that are more complicated or contested estates.

What are the duties of a Personal Representative?

Those tasks a Personal Representative must do include:

  1. Discovering, collecting and completing an inventory all of the deceased assets* (some assets may have transferred automatically upon death, but some may still remain titled to the deceased).
  2. Paying final expenses, if any
  3. Addressing any creditor claims, if any
  4. Filing last tax returns and paying taxes (if necessary)
  5. Distributing remaining assets to heirs

* Assets can include: real estate, bank accounts, certificates of deposit, stocks and bonds, membership interests in a business (like an LLC), investment accounts (like T. Rowe Price, Schwab or Etrade), retirement accounts (IRAs, 401(k)s, pension plans, profit sharing plans, retirement plans), life insurance plans, and vehicles and boats.

How long does probate take?

Assuming there is no one challenging the will or otherwise fighting over the estate, it will likely take 5 to 6 months to complete.

Is a Personal Representative paid?

The PR is entitled by law to “reasonable” compensation. This is usually done on an hourly basis, so the PR must keep track of the work they do and any expenses.

How is the probate lawyer paid?

Unlike other states that provide for legal fees as a percentage of the estate, there are no such rules in Arizona. The only restriction on legal fees is they have to be “reasonable” considering the size and complexity of the estate.

Should probate become necessary, Poulos Law Firm is ready to help walk through the process step by step.

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