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How Do You Avoid Probate in Arizona?

Conceptual hand written text showing probate near a judge's gavel and book with pen.

A proper estate plan can help prevent the pains of probate.

Probate, the process of appropriately distributing an individual's assets following their death, can be a lengthy, expensive, painful, and public process that many people would like to avoid. And some can.

Staying out of Arizona probate court may not be possible for everyone - especially those with large estates. If probate can't be avoided, strategic estate planning can expedite the process, saving time and money while ensuring legacies are passed on as intended.

What is probate?

Probate is the legal process through which a deceased person's debts are paid, and assets are distributed according to their last will and testament. The probate court's objective is to make sure creditors have been paid, and once that has been accomplished, the remaining assets from the estate are allocated to legal beneficiaries. Smart estate planning ahead of time can protect estates from being diminished by taxes and creditors in probate court.

How can an estate avoid probate in Arizona?

Almost every Arizona estate goes through probate. How well an individual plans generally dictates how long the process will take. A probate case could take anywhere from a few months to a year or more if the will is contested.

For an estate to completely avoid probate, it is likely small, and distribution is pre-planned. To get out of probate in Arizona, typically, the following things must be true:

  • The estate's personal assets are valued at less than $75,000.
  • The estate's real estate property is valued at less than $100,000.
  • There is no distribution of "probate assets" (assets such as cars and boats, in which a judge is required to transfer the title).
  • The deceased established a legally-sound last will that distributes assets.
  • The will is uncontested.

How to reduce estate taxes and time spent in probate

Even if probate is inevitable, having a proper estate plan can reduce the time, money, and pain of distribution disagreements among family and loved ones. Here are some ways to ensure an estate gets through probate as quickly and inexpensively as possible:

  • Choose a qualified personal representative. In Arizona, every estate that goes to probate has a personal representative appointed. This person is either chosen by the deceased or determined by the statutes and appointed by the court to manage the estate. By their actions, this person can significantly influence how much time an estate spends in probate. Many people choose a family member or friend, a licensed fiduciary, or a corporate fiduciary as their personal representative. Being selective in who you choose will determine how professional the handling of their affairs will be, but it can also relieve loved ones of the stress of managing complicated finances at a difficult time.
  • Establish living trusts. Not all assets are subject to estate taxes. A living trust helps shield assets from estate taxes while also establishing a long-term distribution plan for loved ones. In general, living trusts are revocable, which means the terms can be changed by the individual at any time
  • Gifting strategies. Gifting to charities, family entities, and generation-skipping trusts can be used to reduce an estate's tax liability and time in court.

Don't let taxes consume your legacy. Let our attorneys put you on the right path

Everyone wants to secure a strong legacy for their heirs. While there is no way to completely eliminate an estate's tax liability, the dedicated legal team at The Law Firm of Brown & Jensen has the experience, resources, and dedication to help you during any stage of the probate process.

The attorneys at our Arizona law firm think creatively and work diligently, using every means available to secure your legacy while remaining in full compliance with state and federal laws. If you are making end-of-life plans, contact us for a free case evaluation. A member of our team can get an understanding of your needs, explain your options, and answer questions.

Make sure your legacy is prepared to withstand taxes. Contact us today to see how we can help you.

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