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How Long Does the Probate Process Take in Arizona?

If you’ve been appointed the executor of an estate or if you’re expecting an inheritance, you may be wondering just how long the probate process can take. 

Unfortunately, probate is a complex process, and there are many different factors that can delay its completion. There is no definitive answer to how long probate takes in Arizona. The process typically takes around one to three years. 

The Phelps LaClair team can guide you through the probate process, and if you’re creating an estate plan, we can help your estate avoid probate altogether. We put together this guide to help you understand what happens when an estate does have to go through probate. 

What Is Probate?

Probate is the legal process of validating the will and administering the estate of someone who has passed away. All wills need to be validated through probate, and the court will supervise the distribution of the assets listed in a will to ensure that its instructions are followed. However, certain assets can avoid probate if they are held in a trust, a joint tenancy, or as community property with the right of survivorship.

How Long Does the Probate Process Usually Take in Arizona?

The length of probate varies from estate to estate, but you can always count on the process to take at least a year. The reason probate takes so long is because the executor or personal representative must follow several steps:

  1. Take an inventory of all the assets in the estate
  2. Send a notice of probate to all the beneficiaries, creditors, heirs, etc. 
  3. Settle any debts, file final taxes, and pay outstanding bills on behalf of the deceased
  4. Distribute the assets according to the instructions left in the will

Which Factors Influence the Length of Probate?

Probate that lasts just a year is a best-case scenario, not the only possible time frame. There are many factors that affect how long the probate process lasts, including the number of beneficiaries and where they live, whether or not there is a will, whether or not the will is contested, whether the estate is taxable, and more. 

Formal vs. Informal Probate

How long the probate process takes in Arizona mainly depends on whether the estate has to go through a formal or informal process. Informal probate takes place when no one objects to the will, so the probate process typically only takes a year. However, if anyone decides to contest the will, then a formal probate is required, and usually takes more than a year to complete. 

Out-of-State Executors and Beneficiaries

Under Arizona law, you can appoint an executor that lives in another state to carry out your wishes. However, it takes more time to notify them and have them sign and return essential documents than it would if they lived in Arizona. And the same goes for your beneficiaries. It will take more time to track down and notify any beneficiaries that live out of state, leading to a longer probate process. 

The Number of Beneficiaries

How many beneficiaries you have listed in your will can also impact the probate process. The more beneficiaries there are, the more time it will take to find and notify them all. It also makes it difficult to schedule court hearings that everyone involved will be able to attend. 

Estate Taxes

Although Arizona does not impose an estate tax, estates valued over $12.06 million for the 2022 tax year are subject to the federal estate tax. However, the exclusion limit is subject to change each year. If your estate ends up being taxable, then the executor will need to take extra time to use your assets to pay the taxes. Plus, the court will need to receive a closing letter from the IRS, which can take several months. 

Avoiding Arizona Probate

Even if it only takes a year, the probate process is expensive, and can place a huge burden on beneficiaries and executors alike. Fortunately, a well-designed estate plan can help your estate avoid probate altogether.

The Phelps LaClair team is dedicated to helping the residents of Mesa, Chandler, and Phoenix, and the surrounding areas avoid probate with our expert estate planning services. We can help you file a small estate affidavit, place your assets in a trust, and initiate other legal methods for avoiding probate. 

Call 480-892-2488 to schedule a consultation at one of our many convenient locations across Arizona. 

Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (10/11/2022). Photo by Gilles De Muynck on Unsplash

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