A probate proceeding is established to probate a Will, if the decedent left a Will, and to appoint a Personal Representative (also known as an executor or administrator). A court proceeding is necessary if the decedent left property titled in his or her name alone (with no surviving joint tenant or other beneficiary designation) and the total value of the personal property is over $75,000.00 and/or the total equity value of the real property is over $100,000.00.
Informal proceedings can be opened without the necessity of a court hearing in many cases. If the decedent left a Will, you must have the original Will to file in court in order to apply for informal probate and appointment of the personal representative. One of the provisions in a Will states who the decedent has nominated to act as Personal Representative; the nominee or other interested party (usually a family member) can file the application for an informal probate. If the decedent did not leave a Will an informal probate can still be opened in most cases. The persons who can file an application with the court, and the priorities for appointment are set out in Arizona Revised Statutes. When there is no Will the decedent’s property will pass by intestate succession as provided by Arizona Revised Statutes.
Formal probates are required when the original of the decedent’s Will cannot be located and family or another interested person wishes to submit a copy of a Will to the court for probate; other circumstances which may require a formal probate include a decedent who died more than two years prior to the filing or when the person requesting the proceeding does not have priority under Arizona statutes to request the probate or appointment of a personal representative; additionally a formal probate may be required if family members or other interested parties are in dispute regarding the decedent’s Will or property distribution.
A checklist of the information required to prepare the court documents necessary to open a probate proceeding in the court can be found here.