Aside from the question of what is probate, there is the question of why one needs to go through probate.
First, it should be said that most estates with carefully-crafted estate plans do not need to go through probate. However, it is required on occasion, when tragedies or other unforeseen situations take place, even despite best efforts to carefully plan. Considering that statistics repeatedly show most people die without a will, let alone more sophisticated and meticulous estate planning instruments, chances are that some type of probate process will be necessary.
Getting to the answer to the main question, then, the purpose of probate is to provide an organized process to get a decedent’s assets to those who are legally entitled to them. To satisfy this purpose, Arizona probate protects four main classes of interested parties in a decedent’s estate:
- Families, Heirs, and Beneficiaries. The process protects these parties by requiring their notification of important steps, waivers, and/or approval of actions taken throughout the process. If heirs, beneficiaries, or certain family members see an issue with the probate, they can contest those issues in court. There are also several processes that do not require notification, but these are for small estates, where imposing serious legal penalties for dishonesty in using the process is viewed as enough protection when weighed against the expense of full probate. The benefit of Arizona’s probate system is that the complexity of the proper probate process is typically proportionate to the value of the estate. Therefore, the expense of collecting the assets in the estate is also typically proportionate.
- Creditors. Creditors of a decedent are also given notice of proceedings. However, a creditor’s claim will be barred if the creditor was given proper notice and the creditor fails to make a claim within the deadline period during the administration of the estate.
- Holders of Estate Property. Probate protects holders of estate property, such as banks and financial institutions, by assuring those holders that they transfer assets without legal liability. This protection helps facilitate the transfer of estate assets to the personal representative as the holder need not look beyond some basic documentation.
- Purchasers of Property from Estate, Heirs, or Beneficiaries. The probate process provides the purchaser the ability to obtain property from the estate free of rights of any person interested in the estate and removes personal liability of the purchaser to the estate. Without these protections, the title would be less marketable and property would likely need to be sold for less. Thus, this may ultimately end up helping heirs or beneficiaries of the estate more than a purchaser.
If you need assistance with an Arizona estate, we invite you to schedule a free strategy session with us.