Probate is the judicial process through which the affairs of a deceased person (the decedent) are administered and finalized.
One of the key functions of the probate process is to distribute a decedent’s assets. If the decedent left a Will, and if the court determines that the Will is valid, the Will serves as the set of instructions to the probate court on how to administer the decedent’s estate. Often this includes a designation of who should serve as the Personal Representative of the Estate and an explanation of who should inherit certain property. If the decedent did not leave a valid will, the decedent is said to have died “intestate.” In these cases, the probate court will administer the estate according to a set of default rules which are set forth in Arizona’s rules of intestacy.
Another key function of the probate process is to adjudicate creditor claims. This requires notifying the decedent’s creditors, determining which creditors’ claims are valid, allocating estate resources to pay the valid claims, and ultimately barring any future creditor claims against the estate.
Arizona probate law allows for both formal and informal probate—with varying levels of court involvement. In some cases, where the size of the estate is relatively small, probate can be avoided altogether and a decedent’s assets can be distributed through a Small Estate Affidavit.
Whether you need assistance in opening a probate case, or if you have questions about whether or not your situation even requires probate, or you are already involved in a probate proceeding and need additional help, the Arizona Probate Attorneys at the Gunderson Law Group are available to assist.