Arizona Probate: The Basics
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Arizona probate court deals with the distribution of an individual's assets, or estate, after death. Many people have questions about probate court and what effect it might have on the will and the estate. One important thing to remember is that, depending on the size and nature of the estate in question, it may be possible to sidestep having to go to Arizona probate court.
Bypassing Arizona Probate
Some property does not fall within the jurisdiction of Arizona probate courts, and so by definition does not have to go through the probate process. Real property held in joint tenancy with right of survivorship will simply pass to the surviving joint tenant; probate is unnecessary, though there is other paperwork to be filed. Similarly, real property held in community property with right of survivorship will pass to the surviving spouse. Insurance policies, IRAs, annuities, and some bank accounts will also pass directly to a beneficiary without having to go through probate, provided a beneficiary has been designated.
Thus, no matter how big or small an estate is, if all of its assets pass by designation (survivorship rights, joint tenancy, designated beneficiary, etc.), then the estate needn't be probated. In fact, it cannot be probated, because those assets are not allowed to pass through probate. Arizona state laws also allow other types of "non-probate assets" with a clearly designated recipient to bypass the probate process. Check with a qualified Arizona probate lawyer if you have questions about whether your estate must be probated.
Even if the estate in question does have probatable assets, the amount must be considered before going to probate. Real property located within the state of Arizona need not be probated if it is valued at less than $50,000. This property can be collected and distributed to an heir by affidavit, which is a separate and simpler process in which you open a court case and ask the court registrar for an order evidencing the transfer of ownership. Personal property is also collectible by affidavit in Arizona.
Additional Arizona Probate Resources
Arizona Revised Statutes:Trusts, Estates, and Protective Proceedings: Probate of Wills & Administration (refer to Chapter 3)
Also, see our article on Arizona Probate Procedure.