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Estate & Trust Administration in Arizona

Although the term “estate” often invokes the vision of multiple large houses, sprawling properties, offshore bank accounts, and a garage full of luxury cars, it has a broader meaning for legal purposes. A person’s estate consists of the property and other assets they leave remaining when they pass away.

The estate must be administered when a person dies, regardless of whether they have a will, trust, or other estate planning tool in place. The process for administering the estate varies widely depending on the circumstances.

The Arizona trust and estate lawyers at Hildebrand Law help people use wills, trusts, and other tools to plan for the future. We also assist in the administration of the estate after a person passes away. Our attorneys have dedicated their careers to helping people across the state in times of need.

Arizona’s Probate System

Probate is the primary system in Arizona for settling the estate of a person who dies with or without a will. This is a court process overseen by a judge in which the person’s assets are distributed.

If the individual had a valid will in place at the time of his or her death, a personal representative designated in the will is appointed to ensure their wishes are carried out. The personal representative is required to gather and list all of the assets, notify creditors, pay debts and distribute the remaining assets in accordance with the will.

During the probate process, the judge can also hear any challenges to the will. These challenges typically allege the will is not legally valid, whether that’s because it was not properly executed, the person signing the will was incapacitated at the time, or the will is the product of undue influence.

In the event a person dies without a will, the estate will be settled and asset distributed as dictated by the state’s intestacy law.

Trust Administration

Trusts are an alternative to wills or may be used along with a will. When a trust is established, a person transfers some or all assets in their estate before they die. The primary benefit is that it bypasses the probate process altogether.

However, the trust must still be administered. A person who creates a trust often names themself as the trustee, the person empowered to control the trust. After that person dies, a successor trustee must be appointed. The trustee can specifically identify the successor when creating the trust. Revocable trusts also allow the trustee to change the successor trustee at any time.

The trustee is expected to act with reasonable prudence under the circumstances and in the interests of the beneficiaries, those designated as receiving assets or property that is part of the trust. The trustee is also required to maintain certain records, provide information to beneficiaries, and ensure the trust property is kept separate from the trustee’s own property.

At Hildebrand Law, our Arizona trust and estate lawyers regularly advise trustees on carrying out their legal duties. 

Speak With an Arizona Estate Planning Lawyer

If you would like to create or update a trust, are interested in exploring other estate planning tools, or need assistance administering an estate after the death of a loved one, Hildebrand Law can help. Call us at (480) 305-8300 or schedule an appointment online to speak with an Arizona estate planning lawyer at our firm.