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FAQ About Probate

What is Probate? “Probate” is a Court proceeding for determining the validity of and interpreting a will or, in the absence of a will, determining the rightful heirs of the decedent. Many states, including Arizona, have adopted a standardized set of laws called the Uniform Probate Code, and have established special Courts and procedures specifically for estate administration. Probate is the procedure established by the state government to make sure that the right people receive what they are supposed to out of the estate. The probate will serve as the final accounting and settlement of decedent’s worldly affairs.

Why Probate? Generally speaking, in Arizona, whether there is or is not a Will, a probate will be necessary whenever an estate exceeds $50,000 in liquid assets or $75,000 in real property. The probate will also start the statute of limitations running on potential claims against the estate. It will facilitate a family settlement agreement approved by the Court to eliminate even the possibility of future disputes.

Benefits of Probate? Without a probate, assets may be tied up indefinitely or pass to the state under a legal doctrine called “escheat”. Without a probate, title companies will often not insure title on a transfer of real estate, making it virtually impossible to sell or dispose of the property. Without a probate, banks and financial institutions will sometimes not release funds and investment portfolios to family members. Also, without a probate, creditors may continue to assert claims against the surviving family members. Probate is the legal procedure through which creditor’s claims against the estate are resolved. It is also the procedure under which you and your family will obtain the assets to which you are entitled.

How Long Does it Take to Complete an Arizona Probate? A probate has certain time limits that are established by law. For example, there is a four month period following publication of the Notice to Creditors during which creditors can file claims against the estate. Additional time limits may be invoked depending upon whether creditors or heirs file claims, dispute the distribution, or contest the Will or the appointment of Personal Representative. Such adverse acts will always prolong the time of the probate proceeding. In general, you can expect that from start to finish the probate will take anywhere from 8 to 15 months.