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The difference between informal and formal probate

The probate process is something often affiliated with estate planning. Most people who think of probate don’t really know much about it except that they want to avoid it. We hope that this post will help clarify the informal and formal probate process, as well as what types of estate planning tools could help avoid probate altogether.

Informal probate involves very little court intervention. Individuals involved with the estate don’t have to go to court, and there’s no judge overseeing a personal representative’s actions. Only certain individuals can seek informal probate, though. These individuals include a deceased individual’s spouse, a sibling, a deceased individual’s adult child or parent, an heir or a named personal representative.

Formal probate, on the other hand, involves much more court intervention. This type of probate is usually reserved for cases where issues have arisen, such as the validity of a will. Other issues that may justify formal probate are a lack of identified heirs, assets that require court supervision and questions regarding a personal representative for an estate.

Of course, there are some assets that can skip probate altogether. Revocable trusts, life insurance policies and bank accounts that have payable on death provisions can all avoid probate. So, too, can real estate that is held in community with a right of survivorship. So, individuals who engage in even a minor amount of estate planning may be able to avoid some of the time and expense associated with the probate process.

Estate planning is no easy task, though. Many Arizonans find it challenging to merely think about their own mortality, let alone plan for it. This is why individuals should think about turning to a legal professional who can help them walk through the process. By doing so, an individual can rest at ease knowing that his or her estate is properly cared for and will be distributed in accordance with his or her wishes upon passing.