On January 3, 2024 in Estate Planning by Leighton Tyau

Initiating Informal Probate as a Personal Representative in Maricopa County, Arizona

Initiating Informal Probate as a Personal Representative

Navigating the complexities of estate administration can be challenging, especially under Arizona Probate Law. If you’re tasked with managing a loved one’s estate in Maricopa County, Arizona, understanding the nuances of initiating informal probate is crucial. This blog aims to demystify the probate application process in Arizona, offering essential insights into estate planning, legal requirements, and the responsibilities of a personal representative. Whether you’re dealing with an estate with a will or without (intestate), our guide provides a step-by-step approach to ensure you fulfill your duties effectively and in compliance with the Maricopa County Court System.

Step 1: Determine Your Eligibility as a Personal Representative

Before you fill out all the forms and approach the court, you need to decide if you’re applying to be a personal representative for an estate with or without a will. If there’s a will, it should nominate you as the personal representative or all higher priority nominees should refuse, be predeceased, or fail to qualify.

If there is no will or all nominated personal representatives are unavailable, you will need to determine if you have priority. Persons with priority will have a close familial relationship to the decedent (the deceased person), such as being a surviving spouse, adult child, sibling, parent, or a named representative in the will. Creditors can also apply after 45 days of the decedent’s death.

Step 2: Assess Other Potential Representatives and Heirs

You will want to identify the other individuals who may be entitled to serve as the PR and those who are likely to inherit under the will or by law. Special consideration should be paid to identifying those who have the same or higher priority of nomination as personal representative. You will also want to identify any known creditors of the estate. If you’re unsure, consider seeking legal advice.

Step 3: Complete the Application & Packet

Find and fill out the application form available from the Maricopa County Court System using black ink. This form will ask for various details about the decedent, the estate, and your relationship to both. There are many documents in the packet which will also need to be completed. Unfortunately, the free packet does not have instructions for every situation and is no substitute for qualified legal advice.

Step 4: Obtain Waivers from Potential Representatives

If you have lower or equal priority to be nominated as the personal representative, you will need to obtain waivers from those with higher or equal priority. Approach individuals who could also serve as PRs and ask them to sign a waiver of appointment, expressing their agreement with your appointment. This waiver should be notarized. If they consent, mail or deliver this waiver to all interested parties, including heirs, devisees, children, spouse, creditors, and others with a stake in the estate.

Step 5: Addressing Bond Requirements

If the will waives bond, you can skip this requirement. Otherwise, you will need to either obtain a bond or a waiver from all interested parties. If you are able to, obtain signed waivers of bond from all interested parties. Note that a bond is generally required unless explicitly waived.

Step 6: Prepare and Organize Documents

Complete the probate information cover sheet, informal checklist, orders, and all the other required documents and include the original will. Make sufficient copies for all interested parties and choose the court location for filing your application.

Filing Your Papers with the Court

When it comes to probate court filings in Maricopa County, attention to detail is key. The process involves submitting various documents, including the original will, probate application, and notices to heirs and creditors. It’s essential to ensure that all paperwork is accurately completed and filed in accordance with the Maricopa County Court System’s guidelines. 

File the Application and Will

File the original application and will with the court. Get the copies conformed (stamped) by the clerk of the superior court. Be aware of the filing fees, and if you cannot afford them, you can request a deferral or payment plan.

Notify Interested Parties

Complete and distribute the notice of application to everyone entitled to notice. If some individuals cannot be located, you may need to publish the notice in a newspaper for three consecutive weeks and complete an affidavit of circumstances and publication.

Submit Proof of Notification

Complete the proof of delivery or mailing of notice application.

Final Steps

Once the packet is approved and the will admitted to probate, you will proceed to the administration phase. This process is crucial for managing the estate legally and responsibly, ensuring the decedent’s wishes, if expressed in a will, are honored, and the estate is distributed according to the law in the absence of a will.

As you navigate the final steps of filing papers with the court and notifying interested parties, remember that the role of a personal representative in the estate settlement process is both significant and legally binding. Adhering to Arizona Probate Law and ensuring all procedures are correctly followed is key to managing the estate responsibly. Whether it’s understanding estate heirs and creditors or dealing with probate court filing intricacies, always consider seeking professional legal advice for probate to ensure compliance and accuracy. This guide aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the probate process in Maricopa County, but it’s no substitute for qualified legal counsel. By following these steps diligently, you can honor the decedent’s wishes and ensure the estate is distributed lawfully and efficiently.

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