My relative died with a small estate and little probate assets, do I still need to go through the full probate process?

Not necessarily.  Arizona law has special rules that can be used to administer small probatable estates that meet the criteria and fall within the specific limitations.  If the decedent’s estate meets these criteria and the special rules apply, property must still be transferred in a manner consistent with these rules, it cannot simply be gathered and given to someone else.  Personal property and real property are handled separately.

For tangible personal property, such as household items, automobiles, and other personal belongings, Arizona law allows for the collection and transfer through affidavit.  However all four of the following criteria must be met for the affidavit collection to be valid.  First, it must be more than 30 days since the decedent has passed away before the affidavit can be signed.  It can be prepared earlier, but cannot be validly executed until that time.  Second, there cannot be a pending application for appointment of a personal representative to administer the estate in probate.  If this is the case, this will have to be sorted out before any further action may be taken.  Third, the total value of the estate must be less than $50,000. And finally, the affiant must be entitled to receive the property.  This entitlement may arise either by the decedent’s Will or under Arizona statutory succession laws.

Real property, such as land or a person’s home, may also be collected by affidavit similarly to personal property, but it must meet additional and more strict qualifications.  There are six qualifications that must be met in order for the special rules to apply.  First, this affidavit cannot be signed until six months after the decedent has passed and it must be validated with an attached certified copy of the death certificate.  Second, there can also be no pending personal representative appointment. Third, all funeral expenses, expenses of last illness, and other open unsecured debts must have been paid.  Fourth, the affiant must be entitled to the property.  This entitle may also arise by Will – in which case the original Will must be attached, by intestate succession laws, or as a special allowance or exemption under Arizona state law.  Fifth, no other person may have an interest in the property.  And finally, there are no Federal or Arizona estate taxes due.

If you believe a decedent’s estate meets these requirements, you may want to consult with a Tucson probate attorney to ensure you will qualify or for help with document preparation and filing.


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