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Understanding Arizona’s Small-estate Affidavit Procedure

A small-estate affidavit is a procedure available under Arizona estate law that allows heirs and beneficiaries to bypass the probate process, which can be lengthy and expensive. The procedure is typically carried out by the decedent’s surviving spouse and/or children but can be initiated by anyone claiming to be a legitimate heir at law, whether the decedent had a will or died intestate.

The person carrying out the small-estate affidavit procedure, known as the petitioner, begins by verifying if they are statutorily entitled to personal and/or real property from the decedent. If the decedent left a will, the petitioner must obtain a copy. The petitioner must also verify whether the court has previously appointed a personal representative for the estate and, if so, determine the status of that process.

The petitioner must also verify that the net value of the decedent’s property (minus debts) qualifies for small-estate treatment. The total value of the estate’s personal property, including cash, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, jewelry and automobiles, cannot exceed $75,000. Additionally, the total assessed value of the estate’s real property cannot exceed $100,000 after the value of liens or encumbrances has been subtracted. If the value of the personal property or real property exceeds these amounts, probate is necessary.

Small-Estate Affidavits

There are different types of small-estate affidavits for personal and real property, each with their own waiting periods:

  • Personal property — An affidavit for collection of personal property requires the petitioner to list the decedent’s personal property, describe their relationship to the decedent and state why they are entitled to receive any of the property. This affidavit cannot be filed until at least 30 days have passed since the decedent’s death.
  • Real property — An affidavit for transfer of title to real property must describe the property, the petitioner’s relationship to the decedent and why they are entitled to receive the property. The petitioner must ensure that any secured debts have been paid and that no real estate taxes are due. This affidavit cannot be filed until at least six months after the decedent’s death.

Once signed and notarized, the affidavits must be filed with the probate court in the county where the property is physically located. A certified copy of the death certificate and a copy of the will, if any, must be attached to each affidavit, along with title documents for real estate and other large assets. Notice of the filing must be given to all known heirs. If the affidavit is accepted by the court, the property can be transferred to the designated heirs. If it is rejected, the estate must be settled by probate.

To learn more about how Jeffrey P. Hall, PLLC, can assist you in determining whether you can use a small-estate affidavit and in completing the process. We serve clients in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Call us at 480-409-5174 or contact us online for a free consultation.