When a loved one passes away, the survivors are often incapable of focusing on much else for some time afterward because of their grief. For one person, however, that grieving process must be cut short because he/she needs to focus on the legal issues related to the decedent’s death. That person is the Executor of the estate and was appointed by the decedent in his/her Last Will and Testament. The Executor must find a way to focus on the administration of the decedent’s estate, a process referred to as “probate.” If you find yourself the Executor of the estate of a recently deceased love one, and you have never before served in that capacity, it can be a bit intimidating. Our attorneys at Morris Hall PLLC discuss some of the most common Arizona probate steps in an effort to help a first-time Executor.
- Identify and secure estate assets. Immediately upon learning of the decedent’s death, the Executor of the estate must try to identify and secure as many estate assets as possible. This might entail things such as closing financial accounts, changing locks on real property, or physically moving vehicles. A more thorough inventory will occur later; however, the Executor must at least identify enough estate assets to determine if the estate will require formal probate or qualifies for an alternative for small estates.
- Initiate the probate of the estate. Most states require an Executor to submit an original copy of the decedent’s Last Will and Testament to the appropriate probate court within a specified number of days after learning of the death or learning of the appointment as Executor, whichever comes later. Along with the Will, and a certified copy of the decedent’s death certificate, the Executor will need to file a petition to open the probate of the estate. A certified copy of the death certificate can be obtained through the New York State Department of Health. Most Executors retain the services of an experienced estate planning attorney at this point to assist them with the probate of the estate.
- Categorize, inventory, and value estate assets. Not all assets are required to go through probate. The Executor must make a more thorough inventory of assets and determine which ones are included in the probate of the estate. A date of death value for each asset must also be ascertained.
- Notify creditors that probate is underway. Known creditors may be notified personally; however, unknown creditors of the estate must also be notified by publishing the notice of probate in a local newspaper.
- Review creditor claims. Creditors then have a statutory amount of time within which to file a claim against the estate. The Executor must review all claims submitted and approve or deny each one. Approved claims are paid out of estate assets.
- Defend against challenges. In the event that someone decides to challenge the validity of the Will submitted for probate, the Executor is responsible for legally defending the Will throughout the ensuing litigation.
- Manage assets. Throughout the entire probate process, the Executor has a duty to manage and protect all estate assets until they are transferred to a new owner.
- Sell assets. If the estate lacks sufficient liquid assets to pay all approved creditor claims and/or to pay estate taxes owed by the estate, the Executor must decide which estate assets to sell and oversee the sale of those assets, to raise the necessary cash.
- Calculate and pay estate taxes. Before the probate process can reach its conclusion, the Executor must determine if any federal and/or state gift and estate taxes are due from the estate. Estate tax returns must be prepared and filed and any tax debt owed must be paid.
- Transfer assets to beneficiaries and/or heirs of the estate. At the end of the probate process, the Executor will finally prepare any legal documents necessary to legally transfer the remaining estate assets to the intended beneficiaries and/or heirs of the estate.
Contact Our Phoenix Probate Attorneys
For more information on the Arizona probate steps, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about how to fulfill your role as Executor of an estate, contact the experienced Phoenix probate attorneys at Morris Hall PLLC by calling 888-222-1328 to schedule your free consultation today.
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