When someone dies without a will (intestate), then Arizona’ laws of descent and distribution will determine who receives what property by default. When someone has a will, the will provides for the distribution of certain property owned by the decedent at the time of their death. A will allows an individual to:
- Designate a guardian for any minor children.
- Designate a personal representative (an executor) to manage the estate.
- Choose to provide for persons such as stepchildren, godchildren, friends and charities.
Probate is the court-supervised process where the will is validated, a personal representative is appointed, and the decedent’s assets are distributed according the directions in the will.
The personal representative is the person or entity which manages the decedent’s estate. If there was a will then this person is nominated by the decedent and he or she is referred to as the executor. If the person died without a will (intestate), then the court will appoint an administrator; this individual is usually chosen by the family. In order to manage the estate, the basic responsibilities of the personal representative include but are not limited to:
- File the will with the circuit clerk within 30 days of the person’s death
- Publish or provide the required legal notices
- Prepare an inventory listing of all real estate, as well as tangible and intangible personal property
- Approve or contest claims filed against the estate
- File income tax returns
- File any required state and federal estate tax returns where necessary
- File periodic and final accountings
- Report receipts, disbursements and distributions
- Distribute assets to beneficiaries
Above all else, personal representatives have a duty to act in the best interests of the estate and in the best interests of the beneficiaries at all times. For more information regarding estate administration, contact a Arizona estate planning attorney from Ferris, Thompson & Zweig today!