formal vs informal probate

2022-07-18

Formal vs. Informal Probate in Arizona

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Whether you’re planning your own estate or settling a loved one’s, it’s important to understand how probate works. At Phelps LaClair, we help Arizona families design successful estate plans and smoothly administer their loved ones’ estates. We put together this guide to formal vs. informal probate to help you understand exactly what to expect when it comes to settling an estate in Arizona. 

Formal vs. Informal Probate in Arizona

What Does Probate Mean?

Probate is the court process of settling an estate after its owner passes away. The personal representative of the estate—either named in the will or appointed by the court—must file for probate within two years of the estate owner’s death. 

There are three types of probate in Arizona: informal, formal, and supervised. Whether or not an estate goes through informal probate vs. formal probate depends on whether someone contests the will or otherwise disputes the estate. Supervised probate is only required when supervising every step of the probate process is necessary to protect an inheritor or creditor. 

Small estates require probate but go through a more simplified process. The decedent (deceased person) has a small estate if they owned less than $75,000 in personal property or less than $100,000 in real estate property.

Probate typically is not required if all titled assets are placed in a trust or have named beneficiaries. 

What Is Informal Probate?

Informal probate is Arizona’s simplest form of probate because it does not require a court proceeding. If there is a valid will that has not been contested, then the estate goes through informal probate. The personal representative will be able to administer the estate and distribute its assets to the named beneficiaries with minimal court supervision. 

Informal probate can be requested by the decedent’s:

  • Personal representative nominated in their will
  • Spouse, adult child, sibling, or parent
  • The department of veterans’ services (if the decedent was a veteran)
  • A creditor (but only within 45 days after the death)

If the decedent’s will does not meet the requirements for informal probate, the court will mandate formal probate. 

What Is Formal Probate?

The formal probate process is a bit more complicated and typically takes longer than informal probate. With formal probate, a judge gets involved to resolve the estate’s legal issues, and a court proceeding is required. Only the court can open formal probate. 

If someone challenges the validity of a will, if there’s a disagreement over the personal representative designation, or if there are other disputes regarding the estate, it becomes subject to formal probate. 

Formal probate is also likely if there is no will at all. However, when there is no will, the estate is considered intestate, and the assets are distributed to the decedent’s next of kin according to the laws of intestate succession

Probate Administration in Mesa, Chandler, and Nearby

If you need to administer an estate, or would like your estate to avoid probate altogether, the expert team at Phelps LaClair can help. When it comes to informal vs. formal probate, we know all of the processes well and can help you navigate them with ease. 

We’ve been helping Arizona residents avoid probate for over 40 years with our estate planning services. Call us at 480-892-2488 today to schedule a consultation in Mesa, Chandler, or one of the surrounding areas.

Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (7/18/2022). Photo by Gabrielle Henderson on Unsplash

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