How to Probate a Will in Arizona

Before you try to find a Phoenix probate attorney on your own, it's helpful to understand what it means to probate a will. The term ‘Probate’ is used to explain a general process in which the property of a deceased person is distributed with the supervision of the state according to its own guidelines.

In the state of Arizona, there are three different types of probate that an estate can go through. There are varying degrees of involvement from the probate’s court in the three types or probate:

  • Informal Probate   
  • Formal Probate   
  • Supervised Probate  

All estates go through a probate to a degree, but depending on the amount of planning was done prior to the passing of the estate’s owner determines how involved the probate is.

The purpose of the probate process is to secure that a deceased person’s estate and assets are appropriately and accurately distributed to legitimate beneficiaries, or verified heirs according to the wishes explained in the ill.

Usually, if there is some estate planning like a will and where someone has been designated as an ‘arbitrator’ or a personal representative over the distribution of the assets, then there is no need for the deceased person’s estate to go through more than just the informal probate process.

An important component of the will is appointing a person to oversee the division of assets as an arbitrator. If there is no arbitrator assigned, then it acceptable for the one of the following people of the deceased person to take on the role or assign someone to take on the role:

  • surviving spouse
  • adult child, a parent, a brother or a sister
  • an heir
  • the department of veterans' services if the deceased person was a veteran
  • the public fiduciary if none of the above are able and willing

An arbitrator will be allowed by the courts to preside over the execution of the will once the arbitrator submits an application to the state’s registrar.

If a deceased person left behind an estate of any size without a will to express their wishes on how it should be divided, the estate will not be put through the informal probate process in these situations.

There are time in which there was a will created by the deceased person but there are concerns that the will does not accurately express the wishes of the individual. This could be for a number of reasons or evidence to suggest this.

A concerned party is allowed to petition the courts to review the legitimacy of the will. If there is a petition like this, the courts are not allowed to proceed with an informal process until the concern is resolved.

If you are looking to probate a will, you must file for a formal probate to be conducted with the state. A formal probate will take place if you can revoke/nullify or present legitimate concerns about the current will.

ARS 14-2507 explains how a will can be revoked or challenged:

  • If a subsequent will nullifies the previous will by stating that that is the purpose or “by inconsistency”
  • If there is any physical alteration to the will in any way that affects the legibility of the will. The statute refers to this as a "revocatory act on the will" that includes “burning, tearing or canceling is a revocatory act on the will whether or not the burn, tear or cancellation touched any of the words on the will”. This can be done by the testator or someone that has permission in the presence of the testator.
  • If there is a question about the subsequent will that is assumed—without concern or evidence proving otherwise—meant to completely nullify and replace an earlier written will.
  • If there is a subsequent will that is does not doesn’t make it clear if it is a supplement or a replacement to the previous will and does not address all of the testator’s estate

Any of these instances can nullify one or all of the wills in question that are present at the time of the testator’s death.

Article V of the Arizona Revised Statutes explains the details of what situations qualify as a supervised probate.

What makes the supervised probate unique is that the court has authority and oversight to approve the proceedings over the estate that an arbitrator may conduct. An assigned arbitrator does not have the same flexibility as they do during unsupervised probate processes.

A supervised probate can be brought on by the request of a concerned person, much like in the formal probate process. Additionally, the deceased person can also request to have a supervised probate by stating so in their will. Based on the circumstances, the court can approve it or proceed with an unsupervised probate if they feel that the circumstances are appropriate.

Conversely, if an unsupervised probate is requested—either by the will or assigned arbitrator, the courts have the authority to deny the request and order a supervised probate. This is done in order for the protection and best interest of the estate.

Non-Probate Assets

There are some types and sizes of estate assets in Arizona that are not required to go through the probate process. Any real estate property worth under $100,000 or has less than that amount at the time of passing does not have to go through probate.

A few more are:

  • joint titled bank accounts
  • insurance policies
  • retirement plans that automatically transfer to a beneficiary upon the owner’s death

Formal and Supervised probate is typically a procedure that people try to avoid by creating an estate plan that includes a will that will cover a person’s family in the future.

If you have a difficult probate matter and want concrete solutions, Arizona Probate Now can help connect you with in your area. You can be connected to attorneys knowledgeable about Arizona Probate, Estate Planning, and more. Call now to find legal help you can count on.