The wills and probate law in the State of Arizona is governed by the "Title 14- Trusts, Estates and Protective Proceedings" of the Arizona revised Statute.
A person who is eighteen years of age or older and who is of sound mind may make a will. A Will shall be:
- In writing.
- Signed by the testator or in the testator's name by some other individual in the testator's conscious presence and by the testator's direction.
Signed by at least two people, each of whom signed within a reasonable time after that person witnessed either the signing of the will or the testator's acknowledgment of that signature or acknowledgment of the will.
To open an Arizona probate, a person or entity must file an Application for Appointment as personal representative with the Arizona Superior Court requesting that the Court shall:
- accept the decedent's original Will for probate (if there is a Will), and
appoint a personal representative to abdminister the decedent's estate.
To open a probate, the prospective personal representative must also:
- file with the Court a written Acceptance of Personal Representative, an approved Order to Personal Representative and a Statement of Informal Probate, and
post a bond if necessary
The Court generally appoints the person or entity named as personal representative in the Will as the decedent's personal representative unless the person is not qualified, declines, is unable or is challenged by an interested party. The personal representative is appointed without a formal hearing.
If the decedent died intestate, i.e., without a Will, a person or entity files a petition with the Arizona Superior Court alleging that the decedent is intestate and asking that the Court appoint a personal representative to administer the estate.
- If the Arizona Probate Court is satisfied that all requirements have been met and all information has been supplied, it will open the probate and issue a document known as "Letters Testamentary" by which the Court appoints the personal representative of the estate.
- The personal representative may give copies of the Letters Testamentary to people and entities to show that a probate was opened and that the personal representative has the authority to act on behalf of the estate.
- In a formal probate, notices of any hearing date must be sent to the heirs and/or relatives to let them know when the hearing will be held. If there are objections to the petition, or if the validity of the Will is contested, a hearing will be used to resolve any problems that have arisen.
- In some cases this may mean that the validity of the Will is not upheld, or that some other person than the original petitioner is chosen to administer the estate. In most cases, however, there is no objection and the petition is granted.
The executor then makes an inventory of the estate's assets, locates creditors, pays bills, files tax returns, and manages the estate assets. When all of the duties of the executor are completed, but not earlier than four months after the probate is opened, another petition is filed with the Court asking that the estate be distributed to the devisees or heirs. If this petition is granted, the probate is completed by distributing the assets to the devisees or heirs and filing final tax returns.
A personal representative is a fiduciary who shall observe the standards of care and the duties of accounting applicable to trustees. A personal representative has the duty to settle and distribute the estate of the decedent in accordance with the terms of any probated and effective Will and Arizona law as expeditiously and efficiently as is consistent with the best interests of the estate.
The personal representative shall use the authority conferred by Arizona law, the terms of the Will, if any, and any order in proceedings to which the personal representative is a party for the best interests of successors to the decedent's estate. The personal representative shall proceed expeditiously with the settlement and distribution of a decedent's estate and, except as otherwise specified or ordered in regard to a supervised personal representative, do so without adjudication, order or direction of the Court, but he may invoke the jurisdiction of the Court to resolve questions concerning the estate or its administration.
DUTIES OF PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE
The personal representative's duties include, but are not limited to the following:
- At the time of appointment as personal representative, preparing a Notice to Creditors, publishing it in a newspaper and delivering or mailing the Notice to known creditors of the decedent and other persons entitled to notice.
- Not later than 30 days after being appointed, a personal representative must notify the heirs and devisees about the appointment of the personal representative as the personal representative of the estate of the decedent.
- Within 90 days after appointment, a personal representative, who is not a special administrator or a successor to another representative who has previously discharged this duty, shall prepare an inventory of property owned by the decedent at the time of death.
- The personal representative may file the original of the inventory with the court and send a copy of the inventory only to interested persons who request it.
The personal representative shall pay taxes on, and take all steps reasonably necessary for the management, protection and preservation of the estate in the personal representative's possession.
If the exercise of power concerning the estate is improper, the personal representative is liable to interested persons for damage or loss resulting from breach of his fiduciary duty to the same extent as a trustee of an express trust.
TIME AND FEES
The normal time taken to complete a probate is 10 months and the fees may be required about $2000.