If a loved one has died in circumstances requiring the state to distribute assets, do you need an attorney for probate? Or do you doubt the validity of a will? It would likely be in your best interest to retain an Arizona probate lawyer, who can help protect your rights.

Do you need an attorney for probate to administer an estate even if a loved one left a valid will or trust? Yes, it’s actually the most common reason for working with a probate attorney. No one in the courthouse can give legal advice other than an attorney, though court personnel and judges can answer basic questions. Attorneys can explain Arizona probate laws and give advice on the best strategy for maintaining and organizing your loved one’s estate.

What Does a Probate Lawyer Do? 

Also known as an estate lawyer, a probate attorney is responsible to guide an estate beneficiary through the probate process, which is often complex. Arizona probate laws plus other underlying factors dictate what a probate lawyer’s actions will be in a particular case. Legal documents will be gathered, after which a probate attorney may create and execute a plan for the distribution of assets. A lawyer may also provide his clients with assistance on a variety of matters, including the following:

  • Overseeing funeral expenses
  • Filing state and federal tax returns
  • Taking inventory of assets
  • Paying off any taxes or debts owed
  • Locating next of kin or other relatives
  • Contesting probate disputes
  • Handling guardianship of your children
  • In wrongful death claims, offering counsel in matters related to probate

Each of these matters has specific time frames in which they must be handled, and notifications must contain specific language. If errors occur in a probate case, the administrator of the estate could be penalized with steep fines due to estate mismanagement, which is usually referred to as “breach of fiduciary duty”. You can avoid many potential issues if you work with an experienced Arizona probate attorney.

The Significance of Notifications and Time Frames

The probate process can be very complex. Serious delays can occur without the help of a skilled probate attorney. Not only do you need an attorney for probate, but a personal representative will be appointed by the court upon opening probate after death. There are several tasks which the personal representative must accomplish in a short amount of time. Throughout the process, specific language must be used and matters must be handled within proper time frames. Otherwise, the personal representative faces costly fines for mismanagement of the estate. The matters handled by the personal representative are as follows:

Notification to Beneficiaries

Within 30 days of appointment by the court, the personal representative must notify anyone who has been named in the will, which is called the notification to beneficiaries.

Notification to Creditors

Notifications must be made to creditors. A best practice is to notify creditors in writing. In Arizona probate law, however, the personal representative is required to place a notice in various newspapers for a three-week period. Creditors have four months to place a claim against the estate, by law.

Asset Management

Another responsibility of the personal representative is to inventory and value all assets of the estate. Once that task has been completed, they are responsible to manage the assets until the time of distribution.

Payment of Creditors

All of the creditors who placed a timely claim for the decedent’s legitimate debts must be paid in full before distribution of assets to beneficiaries.

Distribution of Assets

After creditors have been paid, the personal representative has the responsibility of distributing assets per the terms of the will.

Close the Estate 

The estate’s final tax return must be prepared and filed. The personal representative must provide the court with a final accounting of all actions taken.

Contact Law Offices of Paula Hannah, PLC

Paula Hannah is a probate lawyer located in Phoenix, and she encourages people to help their beneficiaries avoid the costs of probate by leaving a will and a revocable living trust. If you are asking do you need an attorney for probate, the Law Offices of Paula Hannah, PLC can help. To make an appointment today to meet in person, by phone or via Skype., whichever you prefer.