Probate process is a necessary step before one’s estate is passed on to the beneficiaries. States have different laws regarding this process. One is bound by the law of the State the property is governed by. The person assigned by the decedent, or whoever is close to the latter according to the court, will be the one to see to it that each property will be properly distributed to the beneficiary.
Below are the steps on probate in Arizona and how it works:
Initiating the Probate
This is the initial step. When the person dies testate, that is, if he or she has a Will, his or her property will be handled by the one named in the will. This representative is the one chosen by the decedent as proved in the Will itself. The validity of the Will will be determined and proved by the court before the representative can open the estate. However, if a person dies without a Will, the estate will be handled by the person appointed by the court.
Receiving Letters of Administration
After the initial process, the court will give the representative letters of administration. These letters give the representative the authority to open and oversee the estate of the decedent. The representative will need these letters as proof to various financial institutions that he or she is authorized by the law to meddle in and handle the decedent’s estate.
This is an important step in the probate process. Generally, a bond is necessary. Sometimes this is specified in the Will itself, and sometimes the amount is determined based on the size and value of the estate. This includes the foreseeable income of the estate for the next year. However, the bond requirement may be waived or modified by the personal representative. He or she just needs to go to court. The discretion is then upon the court. But there are cases where the bond is waived in the Will itself, or by the heirs and the devisee.
Under Arizona probate law, the personal representative must notify the creditors that he or she has been authorized to take control of the decedent’s estate. The representative needs to do two things: 1) publish the notice in any local newspaper and 2) mail the notice to each of the known creditor. Moreover, the representative must also notify the devisees and heirs of the decedent regarding the appointment. This needs to be done within 30 days after being appointed.
Taking Control of the Estate
The representative is given the authority to administer the estate by the Arizona Probate Code. This is the general rule, unless there is a specific prohibition or limitation stated in the Will. If the representative believes that it is best if the property must be administered by the rightful beneficiary, he or she can do so. However, if the representative decides that he or she needs to take control and possession of the assets, he or she must do so in accordance with the probate process law of Arizona.
Creating an Inventory
This step starts after the probate has been officially opened. The first thing to do is to locate all the estate or property of the decedent. Once located, these properties must be properly appraised and inventoried. The inventory must be detailed and accurate, which includes the nature of the property, their fair market value, the existence of lien or encumbrance, and others. A copy of the inventory must be filed with the court and distributed to each of the beneficiary. The inventory needs to be completed within 90 days from moment of appointment.
According to the probate law of Arizona, the responsibility of paying taxes falls under the personal representative. This includes federal estate tax and other applicable taxes, if any. For this step, it is important that the representative consult a probate lawyer who is experienced and knowledgeable with tax law and the whole probate process.
Managing the Estate
The representative has the duty to manage the estate accordingly, which makes him or her personally liable in the event of loss. This duty does not give the representative the authority to spend the estate funds at his disposal. He must manage and preserve the estate in accordance with the law or for legitimate reasons, like paying for the funeral expenses, attorney fees, court costs, or paying the lenders and creditors.
Setting Aside the Community Property
Community property is the property that belongs to the married couple. This means that all the property they acquired during the subsistence of their marriage belongs to them in equal shares. So if the decedent was married, the community property must first be set aside by the representative before giving the remaining, that is, the share of the decedent, to the rightful beneficiaries. This process can be complicated. It’s best to hire a lawyer for this.
Distributing the Estate Property
This is the final step of the probate process. When all the necessary steps have been complied with, such as paying the creditors, handling the tax issues, and setting aside the community property; the personal representative can now then distribute the properties according to the terms set in the Will, if the decedent died testate. If the decedent died without a Will, the representative must distribute the properties pursuant to the Arizona Probate Code.
If you want to know more about the probate law of Arizona, read this link:
Or better yet, hire a probate lawyer. Being a personal representative of the estate of a decedent can be complicated, legally speaking. To avoid complications and to protect your rights as representative, consult a lawyer who is knowledgeable and experienced in probate process in Arizona. Dana Law Group has a team of professionals who are exactly what you need to be more effective as a representative and to handle things with more easily and clarity.