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What Happens When a House Goes Through Probate in Arizona

On Behalf of | Feb 14, 2024 | Beneficiary Deed, Home, Inhertiance, Probate, Right of Survivorship

Inheriting a house can be a bittersweet experience. While it might represent cherished memories and a valuable asset, the process of acquiring it can be clouded in confusion, especially if the property needs to go through the Arizona probate process.

Probate is the legal process of settling a deceased person’s estate, which involves paying debts, distributing assets, and finalizing taxes. For houses, this means the court oversees the ownership transfer, ensuring creditors are paid and heirs receive their rightful share. However, navigating this process can often be time-consuming, expensive, and emotionally draining.

Understanding the Probate Process:

As a basic overview, a typical probate in Arizona follows this path:

    • Opening the case: The executor, called a personal representative in Arizona, files a petition with the probate court for appointment to handle the estate’s affairs.
    • Identifying assets and debts: The personal representative gathers information about the deceased’s property, including the house, and any outstanding debts.
  • Notice to Creditors: A Notice to Creditors is given to all creditors of the estate, and creditors have four months to make any claims against the estate for their debts.
  • Paying debts and taxes: After the four month period is over, debts and taxes are prioritized and paid using estate funds.
  • Distribution to heirs: Once all debts are settled, the personal representative begins the distribution of remaining assets to beneficiaries named in the will or according to state intestacy laws (if no will exists). For a house, this usually requires a Deed of Distribution.


The Cost of Confusion:

Probate can be a lengthy process. Even the most simple probates take about six months to complete from start to finish. This translates to additional financial burdens, including:

  • Court fees: Filing fees, publication costs, and other court-related expenses add up.
  • Professional fees: If professional help is required, their fees can pile up quickly.
  • Attorney fees: Legal guidance throughout the process comes at a cost.
  • Potential tax implications: You should always consult an accountant about any tax implications, but the “step up in basis” may save you a significant amount.


Avoiding Probate Pitfalls:

Fortunately, there are strategies to bypass probate for your house, saving your loved ones time, money, and emotional stress. Here are some common options:

  • Right of survivorship: Holding property as joint tenants with right of survivorship or community property with right of survivorship automatically transfers the house to the surviving owner upon death, avoiding probate.
  • Beneficiary deed: This deed names a specific beneficiary or beneficiaries who automatically inherit the house upon the owner’s passing, bypassing probate. You can even name a backup in case something happens to your first choice.
  • Living trust: Transferring the house ownership to a living trust allows the designated trustee to manage and distribute the property upon your passing without probate. Living trusts offer greater flexibility and control but require upfront setup costs. However, hiring an attorney to create a trust is often cheaper than hiring one to help with probate.
  • Small estate affidavit: Many states offer streamlined procedures for estates below a certain value, allowing heirs to inherit the property without probate. In Arizona, if the property is worth less than $100,000, the small estate affidavit can be used.


Seek Expert Guidance

While understanding the probate process provides valuable knowledge, navigating its intricacies is best left to experienced professionals. Consulting with our estate planning attorneys can help you tailor a strategy that minimizes probate involvement for your specific situation, ensuring your loved ones inherit your house smoothly and efficiently. Remember, proper planning today can save your family significant time, money, and emotional hardship tomorrow. Schedule a consult with us today!