What is Formal Probate?
Formal Probate is a court process where a judge appoints a personal representative (executor) of a deceased individual’s estate in a formal in-person hearing. In estate planning terms, a person’s estate includes all the assets that were owned by a deceased person individually which do not have a beneficiary attached to them. Formal probate is a process where the court determines who should inherit the assets. Most probates in Arizona are actually informal probates (meaning they move forward without formal proceedings in front of a judge). However, formal probates are very important if multiple people dispute how assets should be distributed. This can happen if people question the validity of a will or if there are multiple competing wills signed by the same person.
Example: Let’s say an individual creates a will naming his children beneficiary of all his assets. However, years later, while in early stages of dementia, the same individual creates a new will that revokes the former will and instead names a friend beneficiary of all his assets. Let’s suppose the friend was present when the new will was created.
The children may claim that their father was in a vulnerable state and was influenced by the friend. The friend may claim that the children where mean to their father and the father asked the friend to help him create a new will. Also, the children may claim that the dementia had advanced far enough to make the signed will invalid.
So who is right? That is the tough question and one that may very well lead to formal Probate. In some situations, maybe the children are right. In others, maybe the friend is right. It is a scenario that is highly fact intensive and may require the opinions of physicians to establish what the person’s mental condition was during the time the new will was signed.
There may be other information that is important to determine which will is valid. In this example, the wills would probably need to be presented in a formal probate process so arguments could be made for and against each will, and the probate court would ultimately make a ruling on how the deceased individual’s assets would be distributed.
Arizona Probate Lawyers
At Dana Law Group, we are a team of Arizona Probate lawyers that help individuals avoid probate. Also, if a loved one passes away, and probate is triggered, we can also help individuals navigate the difficult process of probate. Hiring a qualified Probate lawyer can really alleviate the burden of the probate process. We have helped families navigate informal probate and formal probate proceedings and avoid probate altogether in Mesa, Scottsdale, Chandler, Phoenix, Glendale, Sun City, Tucson, and Prescott. Call us today for a free, no obligation consultation with an experienced Probate lawyer today.