Why Probate is Often Necessary

In most cases when someone dies owning property, their estate will have to go through “probate proceedings.” Probate is the court supervised process where a decedent’s property is transferred to the beneficiaries, or otherwise those who by law, are entitled to receive the property. The probate process begins with the court appointing a personal representative, who is someone that is given the authority to settle the estate and ensure that the decedent’s wishes are fulfilled.

Some beneficiaries may imagine that once their loved one dies they will receive a call from the decedent’s attorney who will sit down with them and read the will, it’s not always that simple. When people are anxious to receive their inheritance, they are often surprised to find out that the estate is going to be tied up in probate proceedings for six months or a year, or sometimes longer. While this can be frustrating for a beneficiary, it’s important to understand that probate serves many functions and it’s a normal process, and that having an estate go into probate doesn’t necessarily indicate that anything is wrong.

If the decedent died with a will, then an executor (the person named in the will) shall be appointed by the court to settle the estate. If there is no will, then the court shall appoint an administrator to perform these duties; executors and administrators are known as personal representatives.

The Court Supervises the Personal Representative

In the past, personal representatives have abused their power and authority over an estate; therefore, state laws have been enacted nationwide to closely supervise the administration of estates. Personal representatives (executors and administrators) are obligated to answer to the court, follow specific protocol and act in the best interests of the beneficiaries, some of these duties include:

  • Publish required legal notices.
  • Prepare an inventory listing of real estate and intangible property to the court.
  • Petition the court in the management of estate assets.
  • File periodic and final accountings to the court reporting receipts, disbursements and distribution of estate assets.
  • File the decedent’s final income tax return.
  • File federal estate tax returns where necessary.
  • Pay all taxes.
  • Pay the decedent’s debts
  • Distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries.

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It takes time to close an estate, but with court supervision, the court will ensure that the estate is settled correctly. If a beneficiary has a disagreement with how the personal representative is managing the estate, the beneficiary has the right to petition the court for the personal representative’s removal.

If you need more information about probate, don’t hesitate to contact a Arizona probate attorney from Ferris, Thompson & Zweig today by calling (480) 543-8700 today.