There are some frequently asked questions about probate. If you have additional questions about the probate process or other estate planning matters, please contact us online or call our Yuma office at 928-597-0939. Our attorneys will be happy to assist you.

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What are the steps in probate?

Probate is the process by which the court validates a deceased person's will. If no will exists, the court will distribute assets and settle debts according to Arizona state law. The full probate process involves many steps, but the general process is:

  1. Verify the validity of the will
  2. Identify a personal representative (executor) for the estate to carry out the will
  3. Take inventory of the estate
  4. Pay any debts using the estate's assets
  5. Distribute the remaining assets to the identified heirs

Are there different kinds of probate?

Yes. Arizona has three kinds of probate: informal, supervised and formal. Informal probate requires the least amount of court oversight and occurs when no one has contested a will and all parties are in agreement. If there has been a challenge to the will, the court could assign a more rigorous form of probate, such as supervised or formal. These are similar to a trial, involving lawyers, evidence and so forth.

How long does probate take?

This depends on the specific estate. If the estate's personal representative performs their duties efficiently, the process could finish in as little as five or six months. A period of six to eight months is more common, with particularly complex estates requiring a year or more.

Are all assets subject to probate?

Many are, but a few are not. Life insurance policies, certain retirement accounts and other assets that explicitly name a beneficiary are not subject to probate. For example, creating a trust could help a family avoid probate proceedings.

Also, if your estate has less than $100,000 in real estate assets or $75,000 in non-real estate assets, probate may not be required.

How can I avoid probate in my own estate?

An effective way to avoid probate is to establish a trust. When you place assets into the trust, they are transferred to the named beneficiaries after your death without court involvement.

You can also create specialized trusts, such as a gun trust or a special needs trust for a loved one with a disability.

Does going through probate involve extra taxes?

No. Probate is tax-neutral. Whether or not an estate passes through the probate process will not affect the overall tax burden, although your loved ones may still have a significant tax liability if they receive a significant inheritance. One way to minimize the tax liability is to create a trust.

Also, the probate process is time-consuming and may involve legal costs that could otherwise be avoided by creating a comprehensive estate plan. Our estate planning lawyers can help you create such a plan and advise on the most effective ways of preserving assets for future generations.

Contact Sanchez Law Group Today

If you have questions about estate planning and probate, please contact us in Yuma at 928-597-0939. We advise and represent individuals and families throughout the area.