Arizona offers some probate shortcuts for "small estates." These procedures make it easier for survivors to transfer property left by a person who has died. You may be able to transfer a large amount of property using simplified probate procedures or without any probate court proceedings at all -- by using an affidavit. And that saves time, money, and hassle.
Here are the ways you can skip or speed up probate. (If the affidavit procedure is used, there's no need to use the simplified probate procedure.)
Arizona has a procedure that allows inheritors to skip probate altogether when the value of all the assets left behind is less than a certain amount. All an inheritor has to do is prepare a short document, stating that he or she is entitled to a certain asset. This document, signed under oath, is called an affidavit. When the person or institution holding the property -- for example, a bank where the deceased person had an account -- gets the affidavit and a copy of the death certificate, it releases the asset.
The out-of-court affidavit procedure is available in Arizona if:
To use either option, a personal representative could not have been appointed, or it must have been at least one year since the personal representative was discharged.
Arizona has a simplified probate process for small estates. To use it, an executor files a written request with the local probate court asking to use the simplified procedure. The court may authorize the executor to distribute the assets without having to jump through the hoops of regular probate.
You can use the simplified small estate process in Arizona if the value of the entire estate, less liens and encumbrances, does not exceed the allowance in lieu of homestead, exempt property, family allowance, costs of administration, reasonable funeral expenses, and reasonable and necessary expenses of the last illness. The executor files a closing statement with the court, stating that the value was below the allowances and expenses, that he or she distributed the assets to the people named in the will (or that he or she followed state law if there's no will), and that the executor sent a copy of this statement to the people named in the will. There is a six-month waiting period. Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § § 14-3973, 3974.
For help determining if an estate qualifies for one of these probate shortcuts, or handling an estate in general, see The Executor's Guide, by Mary Randolph (Nolo), or Estate Planning Basics, by Denis Clifford (Nolo).