Will Your Estate Avoid Probate Court?

Stephanie Thomas

When a loved one dies, the last thing you want to think about is the headache, time, and expense of going to Probate Court to settle the estate. There are several ways to avoid probate in Arizona. The Senior Village Forms and Documents Team has helped dozens of Village members review their estate documents to help them stay out of Probate Court. Check the tips below or, better yet, call our team at 520-314-1042 for a personal consultation about titles, beneficiaries, successor trustees, powers of attorney, and more.

In Arizona, many types of assets don’t need to go through probate. These assets automatically pass to their new owners without oversight from the Probate Court. Are you aware of these legal options?

* Living trust assets: Assets held in a living trust are not included in the probate estate. Accounts are titled in the name of the trust. The funds would go to the beneficiaries named to receive the money in the trust documents.

* Property held in joint tenancy: A home, bank account, or other asset held in joint tenancy does not go through probate. Instead, the surviving owner becomes the sole owner.

* Community property with right of survivorship: Arizona is a community property state. A married couple can add a right of survivorship to any community property. All property held with a right of survivorship passes to the surviving spouse outside of probate.

* Payable-on-Death bank accounts: Funds in an account with a signed payable-on-death (POD) document pass to the POD beneficiary at the death of the account holder.

* Assets registered in Transfer-on-Death form: Arizona allows you to name a transfer-on-death (TOD) beneficiary for securities and vehicles. Assets registered in a TOD form pass directly to the named beneficiary without probate.

* Real estate with a Transfer-on-Death Deed: In Arizona, an owner of real estate can execute and record a transfer-on-death (TOD) deed that allows property to go directly to the TOD beneficiaries. Also known as an Arizona Beneficiary Deed.

* Contracts: When agreements such as life insurance policies or annuities specify a beneficiary to receive proceeds, the proceeds do not need to go through probate.

* Retirement accounts: The funds in retirement accounts do not go through probate if the account holder designated a beneficiary.

This article is not meant as legal advice, but rather to provide basic information about the functioning of probate in Arizona. Consultation with an estate attorney is recommended. A future article will discuss when probate is necessary and how the process functions.