Arizona Estate Planning: What You Need to Know About Probate

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by | Apr 28, 2023 | Probate Law

Estate planning is a crucial aspect of managing your assets and ensuring that your loved ones are taken care of after your passing. One common term that often comes up in estate planning discussions is probate. Probate is the legal process by which a deceased person’s assets are distributed to their beneficiaries or heirs according to their will or the state’s intestate succession laws. In Arizona, probate can be a complex and lengthy process, and understanding the basics of Arizona estate planning and probate is essential for anyone looking to protect their assets and provide for their family’s future.

What is Probate?

Probate is a legal process that takes place after someone passes away. It involves the court overseeing the distribution of the deceased person’s assets to their beneficiaries or heirs. The purpose of probate is to ensure that the assets of the deceased person are distributed according to their wishes, as expressed in their will, or according to the state’s intestate succession laws if there is no will.

In Arizona, the probate process typically begins with the filing of a petition for probate with the appropriate court. The court will then review the will, if there is one, and appoint an executor or personal representative to administer the estate. The executor or personal representative is responsible for collecting and managing the assets of the estate, paying any debts or taxes owed by the estate, and distributing the assets to the beneficiaries or heirs according to the terms of the will or the state’s intestate succession laws.

Probate can be a lengthy process, often taking several months or even years to complete, depending on the complexity of the estate and any challenges or disputes that may arise. It can also be expensive, as the estate may be required to pay court fees, attorney fees, and other administrative costs associated with the probate process.

Arizona Probate Laws

Probate laws vary from state to state, and it’s important to understand the specific laws that apply in Arizona if you own property or have assets in the state. Arizona has its own set of probate laws, which are outlined in the Arizona Revised Statutes, Title 14, Probate Code.

One key aspect of Arizona probate law is that it allows for simplified probate procedures for smaller estates. If the total value of the estate, excluding the value of the homestead, is less than $100,000, or if the estate consists solely of personal property with a total value of less than $75,000, the estate may qualify for a simplified probate process known as a small estate administration. This simplified process can be faster and less expensive than regular probate, but it still requires court oversight and compliance with certain legal requirements.

Another important aspect of Arizona probate law is the requirement for formal probate administration for estates with a gross value of $75,000 or more. Formal probate administration involves more court oversight and requires the appointment of a personal representative or executor to manage the estate. The personal representative is responsible for carrying out the duties and responsibilities of the estate administration, including inventorying and appraising the assets, paying debts and taxes, and distributing the assets to the beneficiaries or heirs.

One potential advantage of probate in Arizona is that the state has adopted the Uniform Probate Code (UPC), which is a standardized set of probate laws that have been adopted by many states in the United States. The UPC is designed to simplify and streamline the probate process, and it includes provisions for expedited or simplified probate procedures, as well as other measures to make probate more efficient and cost-effective.

Avoiding Probate in Arizona

Many people choose to engage in estate planning specifically to avoid probate, as the process can be time-consuming, expensive, and subject to court oversight. Fortunately, there are several ways to avoid probate in Arizona.

One common method is to use beneficiary designations for assets such as bank accounts, retirement accounts, or life insurance policies. With a properly executed beneficiary designation form, these assets will be distributed directly to the designated beneficiaries without the need for probate court involvement.

Another way to avoid probate is to use a revocable living trust. With this type of trust, the grantor (the person creating the trust) can transfer assets into it and then designate beneficiaries who will inherit those assets upon the grantor’s death. The assets in the trust are not subject to probate, as they are not considered part of the estate. However, it is important to note that a revocable living trust does not provide any asset protection; creditors can still seize assets held in the trust as part of debt collection.

Finally, joint ownership of property may also be an option for avoiding probate in Arizona. When two or more people own real estate or other large assets jointly, the surviving joint owner becomes the sole owner of the property upon the death of the other joint owners. This type of ownership is particularly useful for married couples, as it allows them to easily transfer assets without probate court involvement.

What Is Required To File For Probate In Arizona?

To file for probate in Arizona, you must first obtain the following documents:

  • A copy of the decedent’s death certificate
  • All original wills and codicils (amendments) related to the estate
  • An inventory of the decedent’s assets
  • An affidavit listing any debts owed to creditors

How Long Does Probate Take?

The length of the probate process in Arizona depends on a variety of factors, including the size and complexity of the estate, as well as any disputes that may arise. Generally speaking, however, most Arizona estates can be processed within six months to one year. Regardless of how long it takes, though, it is important to remember that the probate process is designed to ensure the assets of an estate are distributed by the decedent’s wishes. Therefore, taking the time to properly complete the process can help ensure that all parties involved receive their rightful inheritance.

In conclusion, understanding Arizona probate laws can help you make informed decisions about how to manage and protect your estate. Through proper estate planning, you may be able to avoid or simplify the probate process to protect your assets and ensure that your wishes are carried out. By familiarizing yourself with the laws and utilizing the various tools available, you can help ensure that your family’s legacy is handled according to your wishes.

Our Expert’s Take On This

As you can see, probate is a complex process in Arizona. There are many things to consider when planning for an estate, and ensuring that probate is avoided as much as possible should be a priority for all Arizona residents. With proper planning and advice from professionals, the intricacies of probate can be navigated safely and successfully. While no one wants to think about their death, being prepared ensures that your legacy will live on long after you are gone. Here’s our expert’s take on this: start the estate planning process with a qualified attorney to ensure your wishes are carried out properly. Don’t wait until it’s too late! Planning now could save your heirs time and money in the future.

Are You Looking for an Estate Planning Attorney You Can Trust?


Are you looking for a team of attorneys passionate about providing peace of mind for families? Look no further than GillespieShields. While we excel in various legal fields, Estate Planning is our bread and butter. We believe that every family deserves to have their affairs in order and their wishes carried out regardless of their circumstances. That’s why we fight tirelessly to ensure your estate plan is comprehensive and customized to your needs.

From navigating complex probate cases to determining custody arrangements for your children, our experienced attorneys are here to guide you every step of the way. We understand that the legal process can be overwhelming and confusing, so we offer private, one-on-one consultations to answer your questions and address any concerns you may have.

So, if you’re ready to secure your family’s future and gain peace of mind, contact us today to schedule your consultation with Arizona’s premier Estate Planning Attorneys at GillespieShields.


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