When someone passes away, probate is the process used to inventory and administer the estate and distribute any remaining associated assets after debts and taxes. This process in Arizona will typically be handled by the personal representative if the deceased elected one in their will or if a personal representative is selected through Arizona’s intestate statutory laws to the extent no will exists.
Real estate is often the most valuable asset in an estate and the probate court must frequently decide how to handle property that cannot be easily divided amongst heirs. Here are five things you need to know when real estate property is involved in Arizona probate.
One: What Happens When There is No Will?
If an Arizona resident passes away without a will, Arizona Revised Statutes 14-3703 establishes that a personal representative for probate will be determined by the following order of priority: the surviving spouse, adult children, and any other legal heir. If no person is willing or able to serve as the personal representative, Arizona probate courts will appoint a public fiduciary after 45 days.
Other than public fiduciaries, trust companies and title insurance companies, most personal representatives need to file a bond for administering the estate through the probate process.
Two: What are the Responsibilities for a Personal Representative?
The elected personal representative owes a fiduciary duty to the estate. The personal representative must fairly administer the wishes of the deceased in the will or fairly divide the assets left after any taxes and debts are paid among the heirs.
To start, the personal representative must create an inventory of all assets in the estate and establish fair market valuations for each asset. The final tax returns must be prepared and filed after all assets are tallied. Finally, all debts and claims against the estate must be accurately accounted for and paid in full before any distributions to estate heirs can be made.
If there was a will left by the deceased, then the personal representative will distribute those assets and items to the designated individuals or entities. All other assets are distributed according to Arizona intestate succession laws. Arizona laws give priority to the surviving spouse and then surviving children.
Three: What Real Estate Assets Can Avoid Probate?
There are a few types of real estate assets that can avoid probate in Arizona. Any assets held in a revocable trust will not go through the probate process. Real estate owned as Joint Tenants with a Right of Survivorship will transfer to the surviving member(s) of the entity. Real estate held as community property with rights of survivorship does not go through the probate process either. Real property transferred via a beneficiary deed will also bypass probate.
Four: When Can a Will be Contested?
Wills are not as easy to contest as some people might believe. There are specific conditions that must be met in order for Arizona probate courts to consider a contested will. If a will was written and documented with a legal professional, pursuing a contested will has a low likelihood of succeeding.
Five: What is Small Estate Administration?
Small estate administration applies when the estate has less than $75,000 in personal property and real estate property valued at less than $100,000. If the estate is not going through a formal probate process and all unsecured debts and taxes have been paid, then the estate can avoid probate with small estate administration.
Find an Arizona Real Estate Attorney for Probate Matters
Dealing with any issues related to a family member’s passing can be difficult. It is important to work with experienced attorneys that can help guide you through the process and make sure the estate and assets are fairly distributed.
If you are experiencing issues related to estate probate, especially those with real estate holdings, the attorneys at M&G Law can represent your interests throughout the entire process. Contact us today at 602-562-7218 to schedule an initial consultation or make an appointment online.