How Long Does Arizona Probate Take?
Families who lose a loved one often turn to Peterson Law Offices for help with settlement of the estate. If we determine that probate of the estate is necessary, one of the first questions they ask is how long the Arizona probate process takes. The answer varies, depending on the nature of the specific estate. Several factors affect the timeline of probate administration for an Arizona estate.
Is Probate Always Necessary?
Arizona law requires some estates to go through probate, also called probate administration, which is a court supervised statutory process for settlement of an estate. Other estates can be settled without going through probate. The nature of the assets in an estate determines whether probate is necessary.
Probate takes time and costs money. For that reason, individuals often structure their estate plan to avoid probate. Accomplishing that goal requires assistance from an experienced estate planning attorney.
Types of Arizona Probate
When an Arizona estate goes through probate administration, the process requires one of three different processes: informal probate, supervised probate, and formal probate. Which process applies affects the length of the probate process.
Most Arizona estates go through the informal probate process. In this type of process, the court registrar handles the entire process. It is a detailed (but straightforward) procedure and takes time to complete, but the process goes smoothly for most estates. Informal probate typically takes six months to a year to complete.
Supervised probate and formal probate require involvement of the court. In supervised probate, the court actively oversees administration of the estate and monitors the decisions of the personal representative. Formal probate involves court proceedings and usually occurs because someone contests the validity of the decedent’s will.
Supervised probate is less involved than formal probate, but more extensive than informal probate. Both supervised probate and formal probate take longer than informal probate. The length of time can be unpredictable depending on issues in the estate, but both processes can take more than a year (and sometimes multiple years, if there is a will contest) to complete.
In addition to the type of probate required for an estate, other factors affect the length of the probate process.
Factors Affecting the Length of the Arizona Probate Process
Several specific factors come into play in determining the length of the probate process.
Size of the Estate
The overall value of the estate can also affect the probate process. A large estate that includes more assets and may be subject to federal estate taxes requires more time to address.
Nature of the Assets in the Estate
The exact nature of individual assets in the estate affects the length of probate. While some assets are fairly simple to administer, other assets are more difficult to address and take more time. Personal property and financial accounts are relatively easy to transfer. Foreign assets and business interests take more time and can delay the probate process.
Specific Timelines in the Probate Process
The court must appoint a personal representative before the probate process can be initiated. If the decedent’s last will and testament designates an executor, that person has priority to apply for appointment as the personal representative. If a person dies without a will, or a designated executor cannot or does not wish to serve, the process can take longer, especially if multiple family members seek the appointment.
After appointment of the personal representative, the statutory probate process sets specific requirements and timelines for the personal representative to complete the process. The process includes notifying beneficiaries (or heirs) and creditors, collecting the estate assets, paying bills and expenses of the estate, filing specific documents and reports, and ultimately distributing the property. All these steps in the process take work and time to complete.
Location of the Personal Representative and Beneficiaries
If the personal representative or some of the beneficiaries live outside Arizona, the process can take longer to complete. Transferring and executing documents is a more cumbersome process if individuals involved in the estate are not local. In addition, out-of-state beneficiaries may be subject to inheritance taxes, which adds an additional step to the process.
The number of beneficiaries or heirs also affects the length of the process. Multiple beneficiaries generate a greater amount of work for the personal representative.
Beneficiary Issues or Disagreements
If any issues arise with the beneficiaries, including disputes over personal property or other matters, those disagreements extend the amount of time necessary to complete the process. The personal representative has responsibility for resolving any issues that arise during probate.
How to Make Probate More Efficient and Less Time-Consuming
Based on the above guidelines and the statutory requirements, informal probate for an estate without significant issues generally takes between six months and a year to complete. When the personal representative relies on an experienced probate lawyer for assistance with the probate process, the process will be more efficient and less time-consuming than otherwise.
While Arizona law does not require the personal representative to retain a probate lawyer, attempting to complete probate without legal counsel poses substantial risks of noncompliance and violation of Arizona statutory requirements for the personal representative.
Schedule a Free Consultation With an East Valley Probate Lawyer
At Peterson Law Offices, we assist clients with all aspects of estate administration and probate, regardless of the size and nature of an estate. Your first consultation is always free of charge. If you have questions and concerns about administration of a deceased loved one’s estate, we are here to help.
We take pride in offering top-quality, affordable legal services and exceptional client service. We welcome inquiries from clients throughout the East Valley, including Queen Creek, San Tan Valley, Gilbert, Mesa, and Chandler. Schedule your free initial consultation by calling 480-878-5998 or using our online contact form.