Probate is a court-supervised process to finalize the affairs of a person who passed away. The decedent’s affairs, including assets and debts, become part of his or her estate. In Arizona, probate is handled by a personal representative of the estate — also known as an executor— who may be named in the decedent’s will or trust or be appointed by a court. Very often, a person has selected their representative several years before moving to Arizona, which is a popular retirement destination.

If the personal representative lives out of state, handling probate can be complicated by the distance involved. The representative will not likely have physical access to all assets of the estate and may not be able to attend various court hearings. As such, there is usually a need to retain Arizona legal counsel and sometimes to hire a local financial professional to help with the multitude of tasks that must be done.

The duties of a personal representative are detailed in Arizona state statutes. In probate administration, the representative is generally expected to:

  • Collect the decedent’s estate planning documents, such as wills and trust instruments
  • Inventory the decedent’s assets that will be included in probate
  • Determine the value of each probate asset
  • Pay the debts owed to rightful creditors of the estate
  • File estate income tax returns and pay any taxes due
  • Distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries of the estate

Depending upon the size and complexity of the estate, probate issues can be difficult to resolve. Deciding which assets are or are not part of the estate and making accurate assessments of their value is often problematic. If a will is ambiguous or contains conflicting language, it may be contested by the decedent’s heirs and by other interested parties, resulting in a court proceeding. Tax liabilities and exemptions must be determined in the estate’s best interests. Retaining an experienced estate attorney who is familiar with Arizona courts and with state law can be a major advantage.

A significant part of our estate law practice consists of assisting non-resident personal representatives in Arizona probate matters. By acting as your agent, our firm can minimize or even eliminate the need for you to come to Arizona. We routinely hold meetings and conferences through video chats and online document sharing and we have flexible hours to accommodate clients who live in different time zones. We also work with local financial professionals who are adept at dealing with special issues that may arise.

Located in Mesa, the Law Firm of Joseph M. Udall, PLC provides skilled counsel for a wide variety of Arizona probate and estate administration matters. Please feel free to contact us online or call (480) 500-1866 for an initial phone consultation.