Arizona, like all states, maintains its own regulations that govern when and how different types of probate occur when a person passes away or is incapacitated. While there are some other types of probate, most examples of the process fall into either informal or formal probate. A general understanding of the circumstances that may necessitate either form can help you plan for the future or anticipate many aspects an impending probate procedure if you are already facing one.
Informal probate, which makes up the majority of probate in Arizona, entails a process that does not include a great deal of oversight by the courts. While a personal representative will still be charged with completing the process on behalf of the estate, the court will generally not get too involved. This is only possible in cases where there are no challenges to a will’s validity or who may be affected by the will. Informal probate must be filed by either an immediate family member, named heir, a creditor (after 45 days from the date of death), or, in the case of military veterans, the department of veteran’s services.
Formal probate, on the other hand, may be triggered when a will is challenged, the heirs are unclear or a chosen representative is brought into question. Also, it is possible that formal probate may be required if the assets in an estate are significant or beyond a certain complexity. The formal probate process entails court hearings before a judge and are generally more time consuming and costly to the estate. Similar, but distinct under the law, is a supervised probate process. In a supervised probate, the courts become involved in virtually every aspect of the process, which can be come quite costly and time consuming. These are generally reserved for instances when there is great discrepancy or conflict surrounding an estate.
No matter what your probate needs may be, it is always wise to consult with an experienced attorney prior to or during the process to ensure that your rights are preserved fairly and that the process does not necessarily deplete the relevant estate.