What is Probate?
The word probate comes from the Latin verb, Probare, which means “to prove.” Quite literally, probate means to prove the validity of a will, or to prove a person’s interest in an asset which no longer has a living owner. All of this “proving” is overseen by the court. Probate is a court supervised proceeding to oversee the distribution of a deceased individual’s assets.
More About Probate
How Probate Lawyers Help
At Dana Law Group, we are a team of Arizona probate lawyers that help our clients with all aspects of the probate process. We use our experience and knowledge to guide our clients through Arizona probate and create and implement effective estate plans to keep our clients’ estates out of the court system altogether.
While we encourage proactive estate planning to avoid probate, we also assist those who must navigate what to do once probate is triggered. Our probate lawyers walk personal representatives and loved ones through the probate process, supporting our clients every step of the way. Probate begins with the validation of the deceased’s will and ends with the disbursement of the remaining assets as dictated by a will or state guidelines. There are many steps and court mandated deadlines in between, all of which can make probate feel daunting. Working with a qualified probate lawyer can streamline the process and alleviate your stress.
Dana Law Group’s skilled probate lawyers are here to assist you. We have helped families navigate informal probate and formal probate proceedings and avoid probate altogether. We proudly serve the residents of Mesa, Scottsdale, Chandler, Phoenix, Glendale, Sun City, Tucson and Prescott. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced probate lawyer.
First, Probate is expensive. This is no surprise really because it is a court process. In probate, there are filing fees, deadlines, administrative costs, and generally probate attorney’s fees as well. There is always the possibility to try to avoid attorney’s fees by navigating the process on your own, however, it is a very complex procedure that often times leads to much frustration, and the hiring of an attorney anyway to help out.
Second, Probate is time-consuming. From start to finish, the probate process in Arizona generally takes 6 months and it can even take longer than that depending on the complexity of the case. During the probate process, it is very common for assets to be tied up in this process which means they would be withheld from loved-ones. This could create a delay for loved ones to pay expenses related to the individual.
Third, Probate is a public proceeding so private affairs could be made public. For families who would like their asset information and information about their heirs to be kept private, than probate would need to be avoided. Otherwise, personal family matters could become a public record.
In addition to the reasons listed above, people generally want to avoid probate to ease the burden of their family members to navigate this process. The probate process is not efficient nor convenient and there are ways to avoid probate. However, probate is easily avoided by coming up with an estate plan during a person’s life time and properly administering the plan. One of the biggest misconceptions about estate planning is that by creating a will, you will automatically avoid probate. This is simply untrue. If additional measures aren’t taken to avoid probate, a will is actually presented in the probate process. In other words, a will alone, does not help a person avoid probate.
Here are some steps you can take to avoid probate:
1. Writing a Living Trust
A living trust is very similar to a will. The difference is that a will only takes effect when you die, while a trust can be funded during life. You can make a living trust for virtually any asset you own. First, you need to create a trust document, similar to a will, naming the person whom you want to take over as trustee after your death. Then you need to transfer ownership of your property to yourself as the trustee of the trust.
This allows your property to be controlled by the terms of the trust. If you don’t transfer all property to the trust before death, any non-transferred property may be subject to probate. When you die, the person you named as your successor trustee will be able to transfer your property to your beneficiaries without dealing with probate court and the fees that accompany it.
2. Joint Ownership
Another way to avoid probate in Arizona is through joint ownership. In Arizona, if you hold your property jointly with a spouse or significant other, the property can automatically be passed onto your partner without having to go through probate, whether you are married or not. This is called “joint tenancy with right of survivorship.”
This option works well for couples who own property together. When you die, your partner will just need to fill out some paperwork and provide a death certificate to whoever keeps the ownership records for what you are leaving behind.
3. Adding a Payable-On-Death Designation to Your Bank Accounts
Adding a payable-on-death (POD) designations to your bank accounts won’t give your beneficiary any rights to your money until you die. You can spend it entirely how you want—even spend all of it if you want. However, whatever money is left when you die will be claimable by your beneficiary and they can claim it directly from the bank without having to go through probate court proceedings.
You can also name beneficiaries on your bank and other financial accounts who will be entitled to possession of the accounts after your death without subjecting the account to probate. A death certificate with be needed to transfer the account to the beneficiary.
4. Transfer-On-Death Registration for Securities
If you register an account in transfer-on-death (TOD) form, also called beneficiary form, the beneficiary you name will inherit the account automatically at your death and they can deal directly with that brokerage company to transfer the account, no probate court necessary.
5. Transfer-On-Death Deeds
Similarly, in Arizona, you can also leave real estate to a beneficiary by using a transfer-on-death deed, or a beneficiary deed. The beneficiary will have no rights until your death, which means if plans change, you can sell the property or revoke the deed at any time. You can do a similar transfer for vehicles. If you register your vehicle and name a beneficiary, that person will automatically inherit the vehicle after you die without going through probate court proceedings.