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Assets and Probate: What is Included?

Posted by Dana Law Group on November 10, 2020

Image of money in tree

After a person passes away in Arizona, it is possible that his or her death can trigger what’s known as a court-ordered Probate process. This process involves having a Personal Representative distribute the estate of the deceased person to creditors and any heirs or beneficiaries. Important to note, however, is that not all of the deceased person’s property will go through probate. In fact, in some cases, there is no need for the probate process to occur, and in other cases, the probate process may only apply to certain assets and pieces of property.

In Arizona, there are three different types of Probate: formal, informal, and small estate. It can be helpful to know the differences between these types of probate so you know which type you may file once a loved one passes away.

Arizona Probate Estate

The Probate process is meant to apply to assets and property that a person owned at the time of their death. In most cases, the following assets are included in the probate process (keep in mind that to qualify for Small Estate Probate, the deceased person’s total value of real property cannot exceed $100,000 and/or his her personal property value has to be under $75,000.

Any assets owned completely by the deceased person may qualify for probate. These assets include those that were owned before marriage as well. Examples of such assets include things like vehicles, furnishings, art, real estate, collectibles, jewelry, and inheritances.

If there are any real estate assets that are held as “tenants in common,” a person’s interest in the real estate will not automatically be passed to the actual co-owners of the property. Instead, the real estate assets are identified as part of the deceased person’s estate. The assets are then distributed according to the deceased person’s will as well as any other applicable Arizona probate laws.

Another key piece of information to know regarding Arizona is a community property state. This means that when a person marries someone, any and all property acquired during the marriage is viewed as being owned equally among the two parties. However, when one partner dies, that person’s half must go through the probate process unless there was a “right of survivorship” that was agreed upon between the spouses.

What Assets Avoid Arizona Probate Law?

The probate process can be slow and complicated because there are instances in which not all assets qualify for probate. This is especially seen in cases where estate planners step in to ensure certain assets are automatically inherited by a person’s beneficiaries.

The following assets tend to be legally excluded from Arizona probate law:

  • Assets outlined in a living trust
  • Community property assets that do not come with a right of survivorship
  • Assets that are held in joint tenancy and have a right of survivorship
  • Retirement accounts
  • Life insurance benefits
  • U.S. Savings Bonds
  • Real estate that has a valid transfer on death (TOD) deed
  • TOD-registered securities
  • Bank accounts that qualify as payable on death
  • Wages, salaries, and commissions

Because probate law can be complicated and difficult to navigate, it is imperative to hire an experienced Arizona probate lawyer. If possible, you may want to hire this type of attorney before you or your loved pass away as this can make the probate process faster once one of you dies. Having a probate lawyer is also key to ensuring all assets are divided legally and fast to any beneficiaries. Without a lawyer, it can sometimes leave assets hanging in probate court for many years, and this in itself, can make the probate process much more stressful than it has to be.