Probate Shortcuts in Arizona

Save time and money when you wrap up a simple estate in Arizona.

Updated by , Attorney · Harvard Law School

The probate process can be long and drawn-out, costing your survivors time as well as money. Fortunately, Arizona offers two probate shortcuts for "small estates." If the property you leave behind at your death is below a certain amount, Arizona allows the property to be transferred more quickly and with less hassle. In other words, if your estate qualifies as "small," your loved ones may be able to use simplified probate procedures, or even skip probate entirely.

Collecting Property With a Small Estate Affidavit

Arizona offers a procedure that allows inheritors to skip probate altogether. To qualify, the estate (the property you own at death) must meet these requirements:

  • the value of all personal property (that's any property except real estate) can't exceed $75,000
  • no application or petition for appointment of personal representative is pending or has been granted in any jurisdiction, and
  • at least 30 days have elapsed since the death.

Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14-3971.B.

For real estate, the requirements are similar, except that the value of the real estate can't exceed $100,000, and at least 6 months must have elapsed since the death. Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14-3971.E.

How to Use Arizona's Small Estate Affidavits

If your estate meets the requirements listed above, all your inheritor has to do is sign a simple document under oath, called an affidavit. There's a separate affidavit for collecting personal property (all property except real estate), and one for real estate only. The Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property and the Affidavit for Transfer of Title to Real Property contain statements such as:

  • a statement that the required waiting period (30 days for personal property and 6 months for real estate) has passed
  • a statement that the property doesn't exceed the set values for small estate procedures (see above)
  • an explanation of why the inheritor is entitled to the property, and
  • descriptions of the property being collected as well as its value.

After signing the document (and swearing to its truthfulness) and having it notarized, the inheritor simply presents the affidavit to the person or institution holding the property—for example, a bank where the deceased person had an account. The inheritor will usually also need to provide a certified copy of the death certificate. After that, the person or institution transfers the property.

Maricopa County provides small estate affidavit forms; check with your county to find out how you can obtain the right forms.

Simplified Probate for Small Estates (Summary Administration)

Another probate shortcut that Arizona offers is a simplified probate process for small estates called "summary administration" (or "summary probate"). Unlike the affidavit procedure discussed above, summary administration does not allow your survivors to skip probate. However, the probate process is much more streamlined than full probate, saving time, probate fees, and potentially lawyer fees.

You can use summary administration in Arizona if the value of the entire estate, less liens and encumbrances (meaning after debts are subtracted), does not exceed the value of:

  • the homestead allowance (a set amount a surviving spouse or, if there's no spouse, children are entitled to under Arizona law)
  • exempt property (a set amount of personal property, such as vehicles, furniture, and household items, that must be given to a surviving spouse, or if there's no spouse, children)
  • the family allowance (a set amount that a surviving spouse or children that the deceased person was supporting are entitled to while probate is ongoing)
  • costs of administration (costs of probate)
  • reasonable funeral expenses, and
  • the medical expenses of a last illness.

Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14-3973. So what does all this mean? It's tricky not to have an exact dollar amount to compare against the size of your estate, but it really depends on your circumstances—for example, whether you leave behind a spouse and/or children. Some of these amounts also change each year to match cost of living adjustments.

The bottom line is that if the size of your estate doesn't exceed these amounts, which can be set aside from your estate by law, your executor or personal representative can wrap up your estate in probate court very quickly because there aren't any remaining assets after these amounts are paid out.

How to Use Arizona's Summary Administration

If the estate qualifies, the executor or personal representative of the estate can use summary administration by taking the following steps:

  1. The personal representative files a written request with the local probate court asking to use the simplified procedure.
  2. If approved by the court, the personal representative can then immediately distribute the assets to the people who are entitled to them. (The estate can skip over some requirements of full probate, such as providing notice to creditors.)
  3. The personal representative files a closing statement and accounting with the probate court.
  4. The personal representative provides a copy of the closing statement to the people who received property, creditors, and anyone else who may have an interest in the property.

Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14-3974. If it's available to your estate, summary administration allows the executor or personal representative to distribute the property in the estate without having to jump through the hoops of regular probate.

For More Information

For more help handling an estate in general, see The Executor's Guide, by Mary Randolph (Nolo). For an introduction to how you can plan your estate to help your survivors, try Estate Planning Basics, by Denis Clifford (Nolo).

For more on Arizona estate planning issues, see our section on Arizona Estate Planning.

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