What do you do when someone dies in Arizona?

Probate court

First and foremost, we sympathize with your loss. We’ve been through it ourselves. It’s never easy and you always carry their memory. Loved ones remain part of you. Their greatest legacy is their impression on you.

In addition to the most important emotional and intangible aspects of a person’s legacy, we hope to help with the legal aspects of settling your loved one’s affairs.

To that end, this article answers some basic questions, which can help as you begin the process.

What are the basic questions to ask when someone dies in Arizona?

When someone dies, we ask whether they had a Will, Trust, or other device. Does the party have a safe, a place where they keep important documents, or a safe deposit box? If you don’t have a Will or other device, we proceed through the statutory plan, called Intestacy.

Which property goes through probate and which property does not?

Next, we determine whether there is probate property and non-probate property. This goes for whether there is a Trust or not because some property does not make it into the Trust and must go through the probate process. We naturally ask about property because that is what usually drives the issue. Probate is only necessary if there is probate property, and not all property is titled so that it requires probate. Parties often avoid probate through effective estate planning, which reduces the cost to the estate. If probate is necessary, documents must be filed in Superior court to open a probate case.

What is the probate process and when is it necessary?

How do I determine whether to use Informal or Formal Probate?

This can sound like a tricky question, but it isn’t. Most cases involve Informal probate. The main distinction is whether there is a Will contest or whether the court needs to determine something unique, like who are the heirs. Formal has other notice requirements and is more involved. It’s best to discuss with an attorney to see if your matter triggers Formal probate. If not, then the matter can proceed through Informal probate.

How do I determine the Executor (Personal Representative)?

Arizona uses the term Personal Representative instead of Executor because it is a Uniform Probate Code jurisdiction. The Personal Representative is either determined by Will or statute (A.R.S.

Personal Representatives are accountable to the court as fiduciaries for the estate. They have duties to those inheriting. In addition to filing, some of their responsibilities include:

  • Identifying and inventorying all of the deceased’s assets whose ownership did not automatically transfer when he or she died.
  • Paying any last expenses that the deceased might have.
  • Filing the last tax returns of the deceased and paying any required taxes.
  • Distributing the remaining assets to the heirs of the deceased, either:
    • As provided in the deceased’s will, or
    • As provided by law, if the deceased left no will.

It is important to note that Probate is not always necessary when a person dies. If someone dies with no assets or if all assets automatically transfer ownership at death, so that no assets remain titled in the name of the deceased, a probate may not be necessary. The only remaining reason for a probate would be to give notice to the deceased’s creditors.

Before the probate process is defined, it may be beneficial for you to understand common probate law terms (https://heinslaw.com/navigating-terminology-estates-and-probate/).

What is the Arizona Probate Process?

Arizona Statutes require that a personal representative be appointed to administer the probate.  Administration of an estate includes filing a verified statement, publishing notice to creditors and giving other notice as required, making distributions, filing receipts, paying taxes, and closing the estate according to law.

Arizona probate is a five-step process. The details of each process step may vary depending on the particular situation, but in general probate involves opening probate, providing notice, conducting an inventory, distributing property, and closing probate.

Step 1: How to Open Probate with Court

If a probate is required, the “petitioner” (usually an heir, but not always) prepares and files a probate petition with the Arizona Superior Court in the county in which the decedent lived. Any of the following may initiate an informal probate:

1. The surviving spouse of the decedent.

2. An adult child, a parent, a brother or a sister of the decedent.

3. A person who is an heir of the decedent.

4. A person nominated as a personal representative by a probated Will or the Will for which probate is asked or pursuant to a power conferred by the Will.

5. If the decedent was a nonresident of Arizona, any person who is qualified under paragraphs 1 – 4 above or a personal representative appointed in the decedent’s state of domicile or the nominee of the personal representative.

6. If the decedent was a veteran, the Department of Veterans’ Services.

7. Any creditor of the decedent after 45 days after the death.

8. The public fiduciary if no person is qualified and willing to serve as personal representative under 1 – 7 above.

Step 2: How do I determine and provide notice?

The petitioner is required to file notice with interested parties, including any personal representative of the decedent, heirs, creditors, and others, depending on the situation. 

Notice to known interested parties can be done by personal service, mail or hand delivery of a copy of the Notice of Appointment of Personal Representative.

Notice to unknown creditors can be done by publishing a Notice to Creditors in a local county newspaper in which the probate court is located, once a week for three consecutive weeks. Once that is accomplished the publishing company will be provide you with an affidavit of publication which you will file with the court in order to provide evidence that you made your best effort to notify potential creditors.

Step 3: How to determine the inventory of an estate?

An inventory of all the assets and debts of the estate must be prepared.

Step 4: How to do Distribution?

Four months from the first date of publication you may begin the distribution of the estate, so long as there are no creditors making a claim on it.

Step 5: How to Close an Estate?

Once all valid claims have been paid and the property of the estate has been distributed, it is time to close the estate.

What are some of the important Probate Forms?

The probate process requires significant documentation and court filings. It is a very serious duty. Some of the forms required are an Application, Inventories and Appraisals. There are other documents useful to deal with specific situations and ultimately closing the estate.

When you choose Heins Law, P.C. to assist you with your probate documents, we will support your probate process every step of the way, helping you make sure to use the appropriate documents for each situation, and help fill them out correctly. We make sure that all interested parties obtain copies of all the documents they are entitled to receive according to the Arizona Probate Code so you don’t have to worry.

We will handle publishing a notice in the newspaper and make sure that the Court receives an affidavit as proof of publication. We also make sure all interested parties receive a Notice of Informal Appointment. Later, we prepare and file the Proposal for Distribution, mail copies to interested parties, prepare and file the Deed of Distribution and record it with the Recorder’s Office.

Heins Law, P.C. prides itself on maintaining high standards of excellence when preparing documents for proceedings in Arizona. We focus on resourcefulness and efficiency, where you can avoid the expense of a high-priced attorney from larger law firm (that really use an outdated model which passes costs on the clients). Also, there is no need to worry about deadlines and properly completing the forms. Contact our office today so that we can walk you through the probate document preparation services we offer. We offer free consultation registrations below:

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