“Probate” Can Mean Many Different Things
In Arizona, the probate court is the division of the Arizona Superior Court that handles matters involving the property and debts of a person who has died. The court also handles legal matters involving people who need protection, such as guardianship or conservatorship.
Probate a Will
In this sense, the term “probate” refers to the legal process of filing a will with the court in order to prove its validity. As a general rule, a will has no legal effect until its genuineness has been proven to the court by testimony, or to the Probate Registrar if the will is “self-proving.” The will must also have been admitted to probate.
Once a will has been determined to be valid and has been admitted to probate, the court will appoint a Personal Representative who is empowered to administer the decedent’s estate according to the terms of the will. This legal process is called “probate administration” or “estate administration.” The administration process includes activities such as:
- Identifying and completing an inventory of the decedent’s assets
- Converting illiquid assets to cash
- Paying the decedent’s taxes and creditors
- Accounting for the beneficiaries
- Distributing assets to the decedent’s heirs.
- And more
The simplicity or complexity of probating an estate is directly affected by the size and nature of the decedent’s assets that must be administered, whether the decedent’s financial affairs were left in order or in disarray, the number of interested parties that are involved, and how well the interested parties cooperate and get along with each other.
Assets Subject to Probate
Assets subject to probate are those assets which are titled solely in the decedent’s name or the decedent’s share of property owned as “tenants in common.” Assets with valid beneficiary designations, jointly owned property that transfers to the surviving owner, and property owned by a trust are not usually subject to probate. However, if the beneficiary or other joint owner dies before or at the same time as the decedent, the proceeds from these assets may have to go through probate.
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