If someone you know has died, the Law Office of Denise Riden can provide guidance on what needs to be done to finalize the deceased person's estate.
Probate is the legal process that deals with what happens when a person passes away. Arizona has different levels of probate: Small Estates; Informal Probate and Formal Probate.
If the property belonging to the person who passed away meets certain criteria, including that there are few assets of minimal value, the rules for Small Estates may apply and there is often very little work to be done in the court.
Informal Probate refers to the process where there is some court involvement but on a more limited level than in a traditional probate case. Quite often, there is a Will that sets out who will get the property of the person who died and names the person to handle the probate process, called a personal representative. The personal representative is appointed by the Court and given certain tasks and duties to perform before the case may be closed. This process will usually take at least four months to complete, even if no one objects to or contests the Will.
Formal Probate is the more traditional form of probate where the Court is greatly involved in what is done with the property of the person who died. This process can be lengthy and may involve many hearings. The best way to try to avoid formal probate is by Estate Planning while you are still living (which is discussed in a different section of this website).
There are some forms of assets that do not go through the probate process, but are distributed according to contracts. These include life insurance proceeds, real property held in a form of title with a right of survivorship or a beneficiary deed, and various retirement, bank and investment accounts with named beneficiaries.
Property held in Trust may also avoid the probate process. However, if there are problems with the Trust, there is a court process called Trust Litigation.
There are certain protections that come from going through probate, including protections against creditors making claims against the property long after it has been distributed to other people and the ability to ask the Court to help resolve problems between heirs about how property should be given to them.
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