How to Avoid Probate in Arizona

There are many reasons why you might want to avoid the probate process:

Posted on November 14, 2021 by Alex Gauthier
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Probate is the legal process that is initiated after a person's death to validate the will and give the estate executor the official authority to identify the estate’s assets and deal with any liabilities that are left to be distributed or paid. The estate executor must also ensure beneficiaries receive their inheritance according to what is set out in the deceased's will.

There are many reasons why you might want to avoid the probate process:

  • It can be time-consuming
  • It can be costly: In Arizona, the cost of probate can vary depending on the estate, but you’re looking at $2,000 to about $5,000 in legal fees alone if you choose to engage the services of an estate lawyer. Simply applying for probate in Arizona already costs anywhere between $164 to over $250.
  • If you are executing a will on a large estate or with multiple assets, the costs can really start to escalate.
  • Probate is a public affair and all assets and liabilities will be available for anybody to view

Fortunately, there are a number of ways you can avoid probate in Arizona. Whether you are estate planning for yourself or helping a loved one navigate the process, taking a proactive approach can help save money, time, and unnecessary frustration in the future.

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Living Trusts

Possibly the easiest way to avoid probate is to create a living trust, also known as a revocable trust. Living trusts allow you to initiate the transfer of assets and properties before you die. The assets are held in the trust and their distribution following your death can be arranged without court involvement.

Setting up a trust is relatively easy. You will usually be named as the initial trustee or creator of the trust. You will also need to name at least two people (successors) to manage the trust on your behalf should you not be well enough or of sound mind to do so in the future. Once the trust has been established, your assets will not be considered part of the probate estate and will avoid the probate process.

Title Property with Right of Survivorship

Another way to avoid probate is to use what is known as the right of survivorship when titling or acquiring property. There are two types of ownership with rights of survivorship available in Arizona:

  • Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship - Titling your assets to joint ownership can be a very effective way of avoiding probate. Assets, including joint accounts and jointly owned real estate, will pass directly to the surviving joint owner. Joint tenancies are available to all individuals and may include more than two people. They do not need to be related to each other.
  • Community Property with Rights of Survivorship - This titling process is limited to married couples only.

Name Beneficiaries

Taking a proactive approach to estate planning will ensure that everything you own is distributed fairly and according to your wishes. This includes retirement accounts, life insurance, savings accounts, and other assets in your name. By naming beneficiaries for payable- and transferable-upon-death accounts and title deeds before you die, you can ensure these assets go to your heirs without having to go through probate court.

Consider a Living Inheritance

The tradition of leaving an estate to loved ones when we die dates back to Ancient Greece. While it's still traditional to manage inheritance in this way, more and more people are considering a living inheritance instead. A living inheritance allows you to watch your loved ones enjoy their inheritance now, while you are still alive. You might choose to gift property now, for example. In doing so, you'll not only avoid probate but also reduce the amount of fees and taxes due.

Simplify Probate

If you can’t avoid probate completely, you may want to try aiming for a simplified probate for which small estates are eligible. If the value of all personal property in the estate is less than $75,000, or if the value of all real estate held by the estate is $100,000 or less, then a beneficiary simply needs to prepare an affidavit stating, under oath, that they are entitled to the asset. This process is done entirely out of court.

Get Help With Estate Planning

Probate can be costly and time-consuming. Getting expert help with estate planning now can help to save money, preserve family privacy and ensure the distribution of your assets is handled smoothly and without going through the courts. Curious to learn more? Get in touch with ClearEstate for a free consultation today.