How Long Can Probate Stay Open in Arizona?


What is Probate?

Is Probate Necessary?

How Long Does Probate Stay Open?

What Does the Executor Do During Probate?

Get Help with Probate from Unbiased Options

The death of a loved one is never an easy situation, and it can feel a bit overwhelming to learn how to move on without them. However, once the initial grieving is over, dividing assets among the deceased’s family is imperative. In many cases, this process would happen via probate if the deceased only had a will.

If you’re going through probate, you may be curious about how long it lasts or how long the case must stay open. In Arizona, probate must be open for four months, but many cases will be open for six to eight months, depending on how efficient the executor of the estate is.

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at probate – how it works, why it must stay open for so long, and what the executor is responsible for during this period.

What is Probate?

Probate is the process of validating a deceased person’s will and administering their assets based on that will. The court will often be involved because of the various legal claims that may occur during this process, although not always. There are three types of probate, and it’s important to know the difference between them and what may trigger them.

Formal vs. Informal vs. Supervised Probate

Most Arizona probate cases are informal. This means the executor of the estate handles everything without direct supervision from the court. While the executor still has to file paperwork with the court during probate, the whole process happens according to the executor’s schedule, not the court’s.

It’s also important to note that only certain people can file probate documents, including spouses, heirs, children, siblings, or a nominated personal representative, as outlined in the will.

With a formal probate proceeding, the court directly oversees some aspects of validating the will and dividing assets. There are only a few reasons why formal probate may be triggered, such as:

  • Questions surrounding the validity of the will
  • Contested personal representative
  • Questions surrounding the identification of heirs
  • An asset requires court supervision

Supervised probate is when the court handles every part of the process. This is the “traditional” way of doing probate, although it may not be the best option for those involved. Usually, supervised probate happens if there is no personal representative or if the family wants to make sure all the assets are handled and divided equitably in the eyes of the law.

Is Probate Necessary?

Yes, probate is necessary if the decedent distributes assets via a will. However, there are a couple of ways for families to avoid the probate process altogether.

First, if all of the decedent’s assets have named beneficiaries, there’s no reason for the court to get involved. These assets can include real estate that passes to a living spouse, retirement accounts, life insurance settlements, transfer-on-death accounts, and trusts.

Many people can put their assets into living trusts to avoid probate, but there may still be some assets that are distributed via a will. That said, there’s another way to avoid probate in Arizona: if the assets are worth less than $100,000 for real estate and/or $75,000 for personal property.

In this second case, the decedent’s family must submit an affidavit to the court showing the value of the assets and a copy of the will. Once that’s done, the family can distribute property accordingly, and the process is finished.

How Long Does Probate Stay Open?

If a case goes into probate, it must stay open for at least four months. This way, any creditors that may claim the decedent’s assets have time to file the proper paperwork to stake those claims.

Typically, though, informal probate proceedings can last anywhere from six to eight months, depending on the executor. Completing these tasks can take a while because the executor has a long list of responsibilities and duties.

What Does the Executor Do During Probate?

Ideally, a last will and testament will name a personal representative to handle the estate (i.e., an executor). However, if a person isn’t named, the family can nominate someone to act as the executor, such as a surviving spouse, adult child, or other relative. If the family can’t agree on an executor, the court may have to step in and name one.

The executor is responsible for handling various duties during probate, including:

Identify Interested Parties

Interested parties can include children, spouses, heirs, creditors, trustees, and more. Basically, anyone who has a legitimate claim to any of the decedent’s assets can be listed as an interested party. It’s up to the executor to find these people and notify them of the decedent’s passing and whatever assets they may be owed.

Calculate Assets and Liabilities

Even if all of the decedent’s assets are in trusts and accounts with named beneficiaries, it’s still up to the executor to validate these assets and pay any outstanding liabilities. Liabilities include mortgages, tax debt, and other debts that might pass to living relatives or children. Paying these liabilities before distributing any assets is imperative so creditors won’t come after heirs to collect their money.

File Paperwork with the Court

During probate, there are quite a few documents that the executor must file with the court. Examples can include the waiver of bond, a statement of informal appointment, notice of application, letters of notice of appointment, and many more. It’s also crucial to make copies to send to interested parties and to have them on hand as needed.

Determine if Probate is Necessary

As an executor goes through the decedent’s assets, they can determine if probate is necessary. For example, if there are some questions regarding the status of an heir or if some personal property is worth more than $75,000 with no named beneficiaries.

Get Help with Probate from Unbiased Options

Dealing with probate can be overwhelming, particularly if you are close to the deceased. Unbiased Options can help lighten the load by handling real estate matters so you can focus on other aspects of this process. Contact us today to find out more.

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