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How Long Does Probate Take in Arizona?

Despite what you see in movies, after someone dies, distributing their assets isn’t a matter of the heirs gathering for a lawyer’s formal reading of the will. Estates often have to go through a court process known as probate. Depending on the size and complexity of an estate, probate can take months and even years.

Probate involves authenticating the decedent’s will and ensuring that its instructions are carried out. This includes appointing an estate representative, assembling the decedent’s possessions, notifying heirs, paying taxes and expenses and distributing assets according to the will. If the decedent has not left a will, his or her assets are divided based on Arizona intestacy law. Assets such as trust funds, life insurance proceeds and accounts with named beneficiaries avoid probate altogether.

In general, probate will last a minimum of four months and may take longer depending on the type of probate. Arizona recognizes these three types, which are based on whether and to what extent there are disputed claims against the estate:

  1. Informal probate is the most common and straightforward type. It is also the quickest, usually taking between six and eight months. It is available when the deceased individual had a valid will and no one contests that will or any of its provisions. The court is minimally involved and few, if any, court hearings are necessary.
  2. Unsupervised formal probate occurs when, after a will has been declared valid, at least one person files a petition to object to the will or another part of the probate process. This can include challenging whom the court appoints as the estate’s personal representative or contesting the validity of the entire will or a section of the will. This type of probate generally takes at least a year, although the timeline could be longer depending on the complexity of the challenges.
  3. Supervised formal probate happens when any interested party requests that the court oversee the entire probate process. An interested party can be an heir, a creditor or another person or entity with some connection to the decedent or their estate. Supervised formal probate is generally the most complicated and time-intensive type, sometimes lasting years.

An experienced estate planning attorney can help you take effective measures that will carry out your intended distributions and streamline the probate process for your heirs. This includes structuring your property holdings in ways that can avoid probate altogether, such as living trusts and joint assets with survivorship rights.

Jeffrey P. Hall assists clients throughout the Phoenix metropolitan area with developing estate plans that protect their assets and provide for their loved ones as intended. To schedule a consultation, call our office at {PHONE} or contact us online.