We understand the trauma and grief of losing a loved one. Such events are stressful and can be overwhelming to those left behind to mourn.
Besides sadness and anxiety about the future, the death of a loved one creates the need to address important financial and legal matters without undue delay. When you contact the estate attorneys at Decker & Woods, P.C. The Golden Rule Law Group®, we will work with you to determine whether a probate proceeding is necessary by discussing the nature and extent of your loved one’s assets. If the estate is small enough and there are no disputes between the beneficiaries, you may be able to distribute the estate without court proceedings. In the event an estate administration is necessary, we will explore the option of utilizing informal proceedings as opposed to formal proceedings.
We provide estate administration services for those who have been placed in the unfamiliar and possibly unexpected role of Personal Representative. Our compassionate, knowledgeable, and experienced team is ready to help you handle your loved one’s affairs as smoothly as possible while avoiding the unnecessary stress and burden of navigating the probate court system on your own. We can prepare a small estate affidavit if your case meets the requirements, obtain the appointment of a Personal Representative, and provide information regarding Arizona law. We guide the Personal Representative through the legal process of administering the estate and handling claims against the estate. We are familiar with the probate process and strive to see that the estate is administered in an efficient and cost-effective manner. We will guide and protect the Personal Representative by providing clear instructions as to the proper performance of his or her duties according to Arizona law and, if the decedent left a will, according to instructions provided in the will.
If you have agreed to act as a Personal Representative and qualify for appointment, we can guide you through the administration process and assist you in completing your duties. Among other duties, a Personal Representative must provide an inventory and appraisal, notify creditors, handle claims against the estate, account to beneficiaries, and handle tax matters. The probate process can be complex and time consuming. This is particularly true if:
- The decedent’s financial affairs were left in disarray
- There are questions or concerns related to the value of the estate
- Multiple parties are involved in settling the estate
- The interested parties don’t agree or are suspicious of each other
We have the tools to make estate administration as easy as possible for you and we’ll provide solutions that are easy to understand.
There are many questions that can arise after the death of a loved one. You don’t have to go through this alone. We stand ready to help you get through the estate administration process. A few common scenarios are set forth below. If your particular situation is not described below, contact us for a free initial consultation. Call (480) 821-1012 or click here to contact us.
After the loss of a loved one, are you wondering whether you need to probate the estate?
In some instances, filing a probate case is not necessary. It all depends on the value and composition of your loved one’s assets. It’s also necessary to consider what is in the best interests of the estate and/or the beneficiaries in order to sell an asset as soon as possible. This is because probate allows for the sale or conveyance of real property sooner, but the use of an affidavit has a waiting period of six months. There are other considerations to be taken into account and when we meet with you, we can help you determine the best course of action based on the information you provide.
Have you lost a loved one and the bank (or mortgage company) won’t talk to you?
It can be frustrating when you have an important question about your loved one’s accounts or title and the bank or mortgage company won’t speak with you without the proper authorization. They may tell you that you have to file a probate and this may or may not be true. We can explore the alternatives to find the least expensive and least complicated procedure available to solve your problem.
Have you lost a loved one and need help handling the estate?
When a loved one passes away, the survivors are left to grieve and handle their loved one’s affairs. Our understanding and knowledge of the probate legal system allows us to help you administer the estate of your loved one with as little stress as possible. With more than 30 years of experience in probate law, our caring and compassionate estate lawyers understand that, when you’ve suffered the loss of a loved one, having to go through the process of administering a probate estate or a trust can make an already stressful situation worse. You can lean on us through the process and we will help you through these difficult times.
Have you been named as the personal representative in a will?
If you have been named as the personal representative and need information about your duties, we can help you analyze the situation from the standpoint of what’s in your best interests. Sometimes, your best choice may be to decline and we can help you explore your options to reach a decision. If it is best for you to serve, we can help you shoulder the responsibilities that fall to a personal representative. People come to us burdened with worries and often report they feel greatly relieved at the end of their consultation. By retaining our services, clients can transfer the majority of their worries to us. The probate process can be complex and time consuming. We are very familiar with the process and can provide guidance for you if you have been placed in the unfamiliar role of personal representative. We have the tools to make estate administration as easy as possible for you and we will provide solutions for you that are easy to understand.
Did your loved one pass away and you’re unable to locate a will?
If you’ve been unable find your loved one’s will, check with the decedent’s attorney. Most attorneys do not keep the original will, but you can ask whether he or she has a copy of the will. You can ask relatives or the decedent’s close friends and/or business associates who may have witnessed the will whether they have suggestions as to where you should look. While it is not a good idea, some people keep their wills in a safe deposit box. This creates difficulty for anyone who is not a co-owner of the box because the bank may not allow access, however you may be able to get an order from the court to allow you access to the box for the sole purpose of finding the will. Be aware that you won’t be allowed to remove anything else but the will from the safe deposit box. If you can’t find the original will or a copy of the will after a diligent search, the court will treat the estate as though the decedent died without making one. This is called “dying intestate.” On petition, the court will appoint a personal representative and distribute assets to the immediate heirs according to the designations set forth in Arizona law. If you need legal advice or assistance, our estate attorneys can help.
Do you know who has your loved one’s will but they won’t produce it?
Arizona law imposes certain duties and liabilities on the custodian of a will. If your loved one has died and you know who has the will, you should ask that person to deliver it with reasonable promptness to someone who is able to have the will probated or, if there is none known, to the appropriate probate court. Anyone who willfully fails to deliver a will as required by Arizona law is liable to any person aggrieved for any damages caused by that failure. Further, anyone who willfully refuses or fails to deliver a will after being ordered by the court is subject to the penalty for contempt of court.
Are you unable to find the original, but you have found a copy of the will?
When an original will has been lost, mislaid, unintentionally destroyed, or is otherwise not available, a copy of the will can be admitted to probate. However, there are some presumptions that can apply. For example, if the testator has custody of the will and it cannot be found upon death, there is a presumption that the testator revoked the will by destroying the original. This is especially true if the witnesses and the testator’s family report that the will was last known to be in the testator’s possession, rather than left with a bank or an attorney. This type of situation requires court involvement and we can help you with this.
Did you find something that appears to be a handwritten will?
Arizona recognizes “holographic wills”. These are informal documents written in the decedent’s handwriting and signed by the decedent that express his or her wishes in the event of his or her death. If you find such a document, please bring this to your consultation so that we can help determine whether it is valid and explain your options with regard to probate.