Arizona Probate – The Process of Closing Probate

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When a loved one passes away, there are many overwhelming emotions experienced by those left behind. There is no way to be emotionally prepared for the loss of a loved one, but you can be prepared for the essential probate process.

One of the most commonly asked questions of estate planning attorneys is, “What happens after probate?” The following will address the basics of closing probate in Arizona, so it won’t seem so unclear.

What is probate?

Probate is the process used for legally settling a decedent’s estate. The Uniform Probate Code is what the process of probate is based on in Arizona (and 18 other states). This process is regulated by Title 14, Arizona Revised Statutes.

It is essentially the process of examining and distributing assets and responsibilities to the appropriate parties.

Why is probate a necessity?

After a loved one passes, a personal representative will act on their behalf to ensure that the deceased’s assets and liabilities are properly and fairly settled and then distributed.

If there is not a will, the estate is categorized as intestate. In this case, the assets are distributed according to legal heirs based on Arizona’s succession laws. Whether there is a will or not, probate is necessary to ensure the deceased’s assets aren’t left frozen in their name or seized by their creditors.

What happens during probate?

The basic steps in probate vary from case to case, but essentially boil down to these steps:

  1. Will Validation
  2. Appointment of Personal Representative
  3. Gathering Decedent’s Assets
  4. Settling Liabilities
  5. Distributing Assets
  6. Closing the Estate

The focus of this post is based on the sixth step; closing the estate.

Closing the Estate

Once the estate has been appropriately transferred to the decedent’s beneficiaries, the personal representative petitions the court to close probate. This step may seem nominal, but it is crucial to this legal process. After probate is closed, the court and personal representative’s duties are concluded and legally binding.

What happens post probate closing?

Once probate is closed, other interested parties may file an objection within six months to the personal representative’s actions. When the estate is not properly closed, the statute of limitations is expanded up to three years from the deceased’s date of death.

Even with that, it is exceedingly difficult to try to reclaim assets that have been legally settled and distributed to the beneficiaries. It’s highly unlikely you can successfully file an objection as the court may not be able to redistribute properly closed assets.

Properly closing an estate in probate is an essential part of ensuring that assets are distributed to the heirs.

How long does it take to distribute an inheritance?

Depending on whether the probate is formal or informal (whether it’s contested or objected to by other relevant parties), it can take between six months to over a year to close the estate.

  • Informal Probate is usually wrapped up within 6 to 8 months.
  • Formal Probate may take a year or more to settle and close the estate.

What happens when an estate is not properly probated and closed?

In cases where an estate is improperly probated and closed within an appropriate time, there are several potential consequences that can threaten the estate.

  • Loss of assets or the value of said assets
  • Creditors’ claims may be extended via the statute of limitations
  • The state could claim the assets
  • Financial or criminal liability charges may be brought

Final Thoughts on Closing Probate

The successful conclusion of the probate process and closing of the estate are important and should be handled by an experienced attorney.

If you need help with probate in Arizona or a probate you are a part of, or if you are interested in learning more about the probate process, including closing a probate, feel free to schedule a free 30-minute consultation and let us assist you in your estate planning goals today.

This article is provided as a public service by the Law Offices of C. David Martinez, PLLC. While the information on this site is about legal issues, it is not legal advice or legal representation. Because of the rapidly changing nature of the law and our reliance upon outside sources, we make no warranty or guarantee of the accuracy or reliability of information contained herein.

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