Probate is the legal process that takes place after someone dies.
Through the probate process, a court gives an order to retitle assets that were held solely by the deceased individual. If a will was prepared, the court will order the assets to be retitled according to the will. If there is not a will, then the state’s “laws of intestacy” determine the beneficiary.
What is the probate process?
The first step in the process is to “open” the probate by filing papers in the local probate court. When a will exists, the personal representative named in the will is responsible for this filing and submits the will to the court to verify that it is the most recent and is valid. If there is no will (the decedent dies “intestate”), the court will determine how an estate will be distributed, referring to the state laws of intestacy. In addition, the probate law of other states where the decedent owned property controls the probate of those properties.
After the probate is opened the judge will issue “personal representative letters”, which is a document that gives the personal representative the authority to act for the estate. These letters enable the personal representative to collect and distribute the decedent’s property to the heirs or beneficiaries after paying the debts of the decedent, taxes, and all expenses related to the probate administration. A probate proceeding in Arizona can take anywhere from six to twelve months to complete. If any problems arise, it can take longer.
There are some estates that do not have to be probated and can be distributed in other ways. Whether or not probate is needed is determined by the type and value of property the decedent owned at the time of death and how that property was held. We advise consulting with one of our experienced probate attorneys in order to determine whether or not an estate must be probated and to interpret the law regarding the distribution of estates.
The probate process can be time-consuming and a burden at a time when families already face emotional obstacles. At Dana and Associates, our attorneys can help you through the process of probate and make sure that your duties as a personal representative are fulfilled. By working with an experienced probate lawyer, you can minimize the potential for personal liability should an error be made in the process of probate and will receive assistance should a problem arise with the estate. All required state and estate tax forms must also be filed. The probate process does not always move smoothly. Our goal is to make the process as smooth as possible for someone who is going through an already difficult time.