Usually when we mention probate, we are talking about how to avoid it.
Today we thought we would give you a peek into the (dreaded) probate process.
What Is Probate?
Probate is the court-supervised process of distributing your assets to your heirs when you die. If you die leaving property (especially real estate) in your name, the only way to transfer ownership of it to your heirs is for a court to order the transfer through the probate process.
If you do not have a will or a trust when you die, then your entire estate will have to go through a formal court-supervised probate process to get distributed. In Arizona, if you have a will when you die, then it is possible to do an informal probate which simplifies the probate process.
What Does the Court Do in Probate?
The probate process usually begins when the deceased’s representative (in Arizona, usually called the “personal representative” elsewhere often called the “executor”) files a petition with the court to have the deceased’s estate administered. The process (which can take a year or longer to complete) ends when the court formally “closes” the estate.
There are a number of steps the court takes to probate an estate. In most states the court will take at least the following steps:
- Proving the validity of the will, if there is one.
- Choosing a personal representative or executor or representative for the estate;
- Totaling up all the assets;
- Paying all estate debts, estate taxes and costs of administration;
- Identifying all heirs or other family members;
- Distributing assets (if any) remaining after administration of the estate to the heirs under the will (if there is one) or under the intestacy statutes.
There may be other things to be done or that the probate court will do, depending on the state and the factual situation of the estate being probated. However, the list above should give you a fair idea of what goes on in the probate court.
Even the most simple and uncontested probate proceedings can take many months to a year to complete. If there are disputes or claims, it can take much longer.
Court procedures involve court costs (filings) and often involve attorneys, and all this leads to legal fees and costs. Which is why we so often talk about how and why to avoid probate.
Talk to an Estate Planning Attorney!
If you have questions about probate or how you can avoid probate, call us. We offer creative solutions to avoiding formal probate even with a simple, affordable will package through our Legacy Estate Planning process. We have offices in Sedona, Arizona. We serve Verde Valley and all of Arizona. We offer free consultations and we can help you with your estate planning needs. E-mail us here or call 928-282-1483 to set up your free appointment or connect with us on Facebook , Twitter or LinkedIn.