What happens in the Probate of a decedent’s estate?
Probate is broadly understood to be the legal process that is often necessary to settle our financial affairs after we have passed away. However, the Probate Court hears other kinds of cases as well. For example, petitions for guardianship of and/or conservatorship for adults are addressed to the Probate Court. Some people refer to the Probate Court as the court of compassion.
Probate is not necessarily a dreadful process that should be avoided at all costs. The work is often done at a law office, and should take no longer than five or six months in most cases. What happens in an “informal probate”, the most common, is that the Court oversees the orderly process of settling the deceased’s estate. Creditors are given notice of the death, debts are paid, and the assets that remain are distributed according to the Will if there is one, otherwise according to the intestacy statute.
There are a lot of myths about probate. For example, that Arizona will end up taking a big bite out of the estate. One reason there are so many misconceptions about probate is that “trust mills” – firms that crank out living trusts to a lot of people who really do not need them – use fear of probate to convince people to pay for a much more complicated estate plan than they really need. So, how much money does Arizona get when there is a probate? In Pima County, the filing fee for a probate case is $204.00. That is it. Usually the largest expense in a probate is what the law firm has to charge for preparing the many documents required and for conducting the sometimes complicated legal procedure.
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