Should Avoiding Probate Be Your First Priority in Arizona Estate Planning?

Explore:  Estate Planning Probate

Estate Planning using willsOur Arizona probate attorneys realize that probate is a term that may bring with it fear into the hearts of many family members. Usually, it is because of horror stories they have heard or even experienced themselves with a loved one’s estate. Many advisors, non-attorney "trust mills," and even probate attorneys will tout the need to do proper estate planning just to avoid probate.

I agree, probate should and can be easily avoided with proper estate planning, even simple estate planning. In my opinion avoiding probate should not be the main focus when discussing your family’s estate plan.

Most probate proceedings are not that big of a deal, and are just the mechanism whereby a personal representative or executor is granted power by the court to conduct business, sell assets, handle and negotiate with creditors and eventually distribute the balance of estate property to the decedent’s beneficiaries. I would guess that with most estates (approximately 80%-85% of the time), a probate administration will not take up a huge amount of time or money. Most probates can be started and completed between 4 and 8 months, and the costs can be mitigated by the personal representative doing the majority of the work, once "“Letters of Probate"” have been issued by the court. There are some probate administrations that turn into litigation for a number of reasons, and these types of probate administrations are where the horror stories come from.

Furthermore, probate can be avoided using various forms of ownership for your assets, such as:

  • a revocable living trust,
  • irrevocable trust,
  • joint accounts with rights of survivorship,
  • payable and or transfer on death accounts,
  • beneficiary deeds,
  • motor vehicle department beneficiary designations,
  • beneficiary designations on contractual type assets such as insurance, IRA, 401K, and pensions.