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What is “probate”?

As you start thinking about getting your affairs in order, you may hear people talk about “probate,” or the legal way to transfer property after death. Learning the basics of trust and probate administration can help you easily navigate the estate planning process in Arizona.

During the probate process, the court will supervise the transfer of a person’s property upon their death. Anything owned by the person that does not transfer to someone else by designation or ownership can be a part of the probate process.

In general, many people try to avoid the probate process in order to avoid the fees that come with it. However, if it must happen, you should be aware of what typically occurs during the probate process. First, the executor of the decedent’s estate, named by the decedent, will manage the decedent’s affairs post-death. If the decedent did not name an executor, the court will appoint an administrator.

The first step will be to collect all the probate property of the decedent and pay all debts and taxes owed by the estate. Next, the administrator will see if the decedent has a will in place. If the will is valid, the decedent’s wishes may be granted and all property will be distributed as stated in the will. However, in some cases, the court may have to override the decedent’s wishes if state law requires it. The larger the estate, the more time it will take to get through this process. There is also a likelihood that disputes will arise among the decedent’s heirs. Some may argue that the decedent was mentally incapacitated when they drafted the will or that the will is legally invalid. The court will have to resolve these disputes. If there is no will at all, the estate may be burdened with costly litigation, making things much more difficult for the decedent’s heirs.

Once the property has been distributed, attorney fees, court costs and the fees of the personal representative must be paid by the estate. The probate process can be costly and complicated, but a qualified estate planning attorney can help you come up with a plan that fits your family’s needs.

Source: FindLaw, “The Probate Basics,” accessed on Nov. 7, 2017