Probate Lawyer

Probate Law Services

At Copper State Estate Planning, a law firm founded and led by probate attorney and entrepreneur Leighton Tyau, we specialize in providing estate planning services, including probate law, to ensure the preservation and seamless transfer of your legacy.

With extensive experience and a focus on personalized service, Leighton Tyau brings a comprehensive approach to estate planning, business succession, trusts, and tax planning. Our firm, distinguished by its commitment to individualized solutions and attention to detail, stands ready to assist you through the complexities of probate law.

Our mission is to craft plans that avoid the pitfalls of generic estate planning by focusing on your unique circumstances and goals. Let a probate lawyer guide you in creating a lasting legacy that reflects your wishes and provides for your loved ones.


What is Probate Law?

Probate law in Arizona governs the process of administering the estate of a deceased individual (decedent). It involves validating the deceased person’s will, if one exists, and distributing their assets to heirs and beneficiaries. When someone passes away, their estate may go through probate to ensure that debts are settled, taxes are paid, and remaining assets are distributed appropriately according to state law. It can be a tough process for family members.

In Arizona, probate proceedings are overseen by the probate court, which ensures that the deceased person’s wishes are carried out according to the law. If the deceased had a valid will, the court will follow the instructions outlined in the document. If there is no will or if it is deemed invalid, the court will distribute the assets according to Arizona’s laws of intestate succession.

One of the primary purposes of probate is to provide a transparent and orderly process for settling an estate. This often involves identifying and inventorying the deceased person’s assets, appraising their value, paying off any outstanding debts or taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to beneficiaries.

It’s important to note that not all assets are subject to probate in Arizona. Assets that are jointly owned, have designated beneficiaries (such as life insurance policies or retirement accounts), or are held in a trust typically bypass the probate process. This can help expedite the transfer of assets to heirs and beneficiaries while minimizing costs and delays associated with probate.

However, navigating the probate process in Arizona can still be complex and overwhelming, especially for those unfamiliar with the legal requirements and procedures involved. Consulting with an experienced Arizona estate planning lawyer can help ensure that your wishes are carried out effectively and efficiently, whether you are planning your own estate or handling the affairs of a deceased loved one.

Can I Avoid Probate? Can I Save My Heirs from Probate?

Unfortunately, if the testator did not plan correctly, there is no way to avoid probate unless they had very little assets to collect. In Arizona, a process exists to collect small accounts, cars, or other titled assets. By use of a small estate affidavit, the nominated personal representative or presumptive heir may present a properly filled out affidavit (along with a copy of the will and death certificate) to the holder of the property who then must turn over the assets. A similar streamlined process is utilized for real estate.

The limits for using the affidavit is $75,000 for personal property and $100,000 after liens and encumbrances, for real estate. If your estate is estimated to be larger than the above figures, the best way to avoid probate is to have a comprehensive estate plan which will utilize a living revocable trust, beneficiary designations, and other contractual transfers to avoid having to go to the court to transfer title to your assets to your heirs.

What Are the Types of Probate?

In Arizona, there are primarily three types of probate proceedings: formal probate, informal probate, and supervised administration. Each type of probate has its own set of procedures and requirements, designed to accommodate different circumstances and complexities of the estate.

Formal Probate:

Formal probate is the traditional probate process, which involves court oversight and may be necessary for estates with significant assets or complex legal issues. In formal probate, the court appoints a personal representative (often referred to as an executor or administrator) to manage the estate’s affairs. The personal representative is responsible for carrying out the probate process, which typically includes gathering and inventorying assets, paying debts and taxes, and distributing remaining assets to beneficiaries according to the terms of the will or Arizona law.

Informal Probate:

Informal probate is a simplified and less costly alternative to formal probate, suitable for estates with straightforward assets and minimal disputes. In informal probate, the court appoints a personal representative without the need for a formal hearing. Instead, the personal representative submits paperwork to the court, which is reviewed and approved if everything is in order. Informal probate still involves the same basic steps as formal probate, but it offers a more streamlined process with less court involvement.

Supervised Administration:

Supervised administration is similar to formal probate but involves more direct oversight by the court. It may be required in certain situations, such as when there are concerns about the personal representative’s ability to manage the estate or when there are disputes among beneficiaries. In supervised administration, the court closely monitors the actions of the personal representative, requiring them to seek court approval for certain decisions and transactions. While supervised administration can provide an extra layer of protection for beneficiaries, it can also result in increased time and costs associated with the probate process.

Small Estate Probate:

In addition to these three types of probate, you may also hear about probate for smaller estates. Small estate probate is an expedited probate process available for estates with limited assets. In Arizona, estates valued at $100,000 or less, excluding the value of the deceased person’s home, may qualify for small estate probate. This process is designed to be simpler and faster than formal or informal probate, making it a cost-effective option for estates with relatively modest assets.

Choosing the appropriate type of probate for your estate depends on various factors, including the size and complexity of your assets, the presence of a valid will, and the potential for conflicts among beneficiaries. An experienced Arizona estate planning lawyer can help you navigate the probate process and determine the best approach for your unique situation, ensuring that your wishes are carried out effectively and efficiently.

Duties in Probate

The personal representative’s duties in probate are threefold:

  1. Gather the assets
  2. Pay the estate’s debts, and
  3. Distribute the residue to the beneficiaries.

Gathering the estate’s assets is usually a simple procedure once letters of representation are issued by the probate court. The rest of the process involves negotiating with any creditors who make claims and then distributing the remaining assets.

How Much Does Probate Cost?

The costs associated with probate vary. On the low end, they are not too dissimilar with the cost of executing a revocable trust to avoid probate. But on the upper end of the cost spectrum, litigation costs can exceed six figures in the most hotly contested cases.

The difficulty of probate lies in having to fill out all the forms correctly and dealing with creditors and how to distribute the assets. The goal of probate should be a minimization of conflict and a preservation of family harmony.

How Long is the Probate Process?

How long probate lasts depends largely on the size of the estate and the ability to easily locate all the heirs and determine all of the debts. However, the minimum amount of time necessary to bar creditors is four months from publication, so in general, probate and any estate administration ought to take about five months in order to ensure no creditors crop up out of the woodwork and demand payment.

Disputes Resolution

In nearly all estates with more than one heir, there will be some sort of disagreement amongst heirs or amongst heirs and creditors. Usually, these are sorted out amongst each other amicably. But in some circumstances, the dispute can turn into full blown litigation.

A trained professional administrator is able to foresee and forestall many such conflicts. We are also able to effectively negotiate with third parties and mediate conflicts between beneficiaries.

What is the Probate Process?

Here’s a simplified list outlining the general process and procedures for probate:

  1. Filing Petition: The probate process begins with filing a petition with the appropriate probate court in the county where the deceased person lived at the time of their death. This process may require disclaimers from people with equal or greater priority to be the personal representative.
  2. Appointment of Personal Representative: The court appoints a personal representative (executor or administrator) to manage the estate. If there is a will, the court typically honors the nominated executor unless there are legal reasons not to do so.
  3. Notice to Creditors and Beneficiaries: The personal representative notifies creditors and beneficiaries of the probate proceedings. This may involve publishing a notice in a local newspaper and sending direct notifications to known creditors and beneficiaries.
  4. Inventory and Appraisal of Assets: The personal representative identifies and inventories the deceased person’s probate estate (their assets), including real estate, bank accounts, investments, personal property, and other belongings. Assets may need to be appraised to determine their value.
  5. Payment of Debts and Taxes: The personal representative uses estate funds to pay off any outstanding debts of the deceased, including funeral expenses, medical bills, and taxes owed to the state or federal government.
  6. Distribution of Assets: Once debts and taxes are settled, the remaining assets are distributed to beneficiaries according to the terms of the will or Arizona law if there is no will (intestate succession). This may involve selling assets to generate cash for distribution.
  7. Final Accounting and Closing: The personal representative prepares a final accounting of the estate’s assets, expenses, and distributions, which is submitted to the court for approval. Once approved, the court issues an order closing the probate proceedings.
  8. Transfer of Title: For assets requiring a change in title, such as real estate or vehicles, the personal representative facilitates the transfer to the appropriate beneficiaries or heirs.
  9. Final Discharge: After completing all necessary tasks and obtaining court approval, the personal representative is formally discharged from their duties, and the probate process is officially concluded.

It’s important to note that the probate process can vary depending on the specific circumstances of each estate and the requirements of Arizona law. Consulting with an experienced Arizona estate planning lawyer can provide guidance and assistance throughout the probate process, ensuring that everything is handled correctly and efficiently.

Probate Law

Understanding Elder Law and Probate Law

Elder law is a crucial aspect of estate planning, especially given demographics in Phoenix, Arizona. This area of law addresses the needs and concerns of aging populations, including estate planning, guardianships, and conservatorships. At Copper State Estate Planning, our probate attorneys are knowledgeable in elder law, offering compassionate and comprehensive legal services to ensure that the elderly and their families are protected throughout the probate process. Whether you’re establishing a guardianship for a loved one or navigating the complexities of conservatorship, our team provides the expertise and support needed to make informed decisions. Our goal is to simplify the legal process, offering peace of mind and security for our clients and their families.

Estate Tax Planning and Probate

The implications of estate tax on the probate process cannot be overstated. In Arizona, while there is no state estate tax, federal estate taxes may apply to larger estates. Effective estate planning can help minimize the estate tax burden, ensuring a larger portion of the decedent’s assets are passed on to their beneficiaries. Our probate lawyers at Copper State Estate Planning are proficient in tax reduction strategies that can significantly reduce or even eliminate estate taxes. From drafting the last will to navigating the complexities of estate value appraisals, our comprehensive probate services are designed to maximize your probate estate’s value while ensuring compliance with all tax requirements and guiding you on what tax returns are required.

Probate Law FAQs:

  1. What is probate?
    Probate is the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person, including validating their will (if one exists), settling debts, and distributing assets to beneficiaries.
  2. What are the most common probate problems?
    Common probate problems include disputes over the validity of the will, conflicts among beneficiaries, challenges to the appointment of the personal representative, and issues with asset valuation and distribution.
  3. What is the probate process?
    The probate process involves filing a petition with the court, appointing a personal representative, notifying creditors and beneficiaries, inventorying assets, paying debts and taxes, distributing assets, and closing the estate with court approval.
  4. What is the difference between a will and probate?
    A will is a legal document that outlines a person’s wishes for the distribution of their assets after death, while probate is the legal process of validating the will, settling debts, and distributing assets according to its terms.
  5. How much does probate cost?
    The cost of probate can vary depending on factors such as the complexity of the estate, the value of the estate property, and legal fees. It typically includes court filing fees, executor fees, attorney fees, and other administrative expenses.
  6. Do I need a lawyer for probate?
    While it’s not required to have a lawyer for probate, consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney can help navigate the complexities of estate law, minimize disputes, ensure legal compliance, and expedite the administration of the estate.
  7. Who can file probate?
    Generally, the personal representative named in the deceased person’s will or an interested party, such as a beneficiary or creditor, can file probate with the court to initiate the process.

Why Choose Copper State for Your Probate Needs?

At Copper State Estate Planning, we pride ourselves on offering personalized legal services tailored to the unique needs of each client. From free consultations to flat fee arrangements, our approach is designed to provide clarity, efficiency and predictability during what can often be a time-consuming and stressful process. Our practice areas cover the full spectrum of probate matters and estate planning needs, including the drafting of powers of attorney, overseeing probate litigation, and providing probate services for those with special needs or a surviving spouse.

Our dedicated team, led by experienced probate attorney Leighton Tyau, is committed to guiding you through every step of the probate process with compassion, integrity, and professionalism. Whether you’re seeking legal advice for estate administration, navigating elder law issues, or planning for the future, Copper State Estate Planning is here to serve you. Call us today at the phone number below to schedule your free consultation and discover how we can help you and your loved ones find peace of mind through comprehensive estate and probate planning.

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