Under Arizona law, an executor is entitled to reasonable and fair compensation for the services they provide. AZ Rev Stat § 14-3719. An executor is the person who is appointed by the court to care for the activities required for settling the estate of a decedent. Another term for the role of the executor is a personal representative. Depending on the size and complexity of the estate, personal representative duties can require a significant amount of effort and time. The compensation to which a personal representative is entitled is directly related to both the size of the estate and the work completed.
Arizona Personal Representative Tasks
Arizona executors perform a variety of different and important tasks associated with closing out an estate.
- Identifying estate assets. The personal representative must figure out what property is part of the decedent’s probate estate. This may include real estate, financial assets, personal property, and intellectual property.
- Inventorying assets. The personal representative must create an inventory of estate assets that includes a description of the items and their date-of-death fair market value. The personal representative may file the inventory with the court. They are required to send it to interested parties who request it. AZ Rev Stat § 14-3706
- Notifying creditors. Because one of the goals of the personal representative is to pay estate debt, the personal representative is required to notify creditors of the claims period. AZ Rev Stat § 14-3801
- Pay debts and expenses. The personal representative is required to pay claims that have been properly filed and that are valid.
- Filing tax returns. The personal representative must file the decedent’s last personal federal and state tax returns as well as any tax returns required to be filed on behalf of the estate. If the estate has complex tax issues such as an audit, this would be extra work for the personal representative and may be grounds for additional compensation.
- Distributing assets. The final major step in the administration process is to distribute the assets that remain in the estate after debts and expenses have been paid to those who are legally entitled to them. The personal representative is responsible for making sure that assets are distributed based on the decedent’s will or on Arizona’s law of intestate succession. AZ Rev Stat § 14-2102 and 14-2103
Compensation for an Arizona Personal Representative
Generally personal representatives receive reasonable compensation paid at $25 to $50 per hour. This makes it extremely important for a personal representative to keep track of all of the tasks that they do and the total amount of time it took for them to complete the probate process.
A series of laws enacted in 2012 in Arizona were designed to create more accountability in the probate process. This added to an already long list of tasks assigned to a personal representative. For example, now personal representatives are required to take a class about how to be a fiduciary. A fiduciary holds a specific legal responsibility to act within the best interests of the executors. The court will not approve an appointment as a personal representative if that party does not complete the training on how to become an executor.
There are a number of other requirements as well. Any personal representative who intends to be paid on a case must give proper notice and disclosure within 120 days of being appointed in this role. When a personal representative fails to file a closing statement with the court within two years of the decedent’s death or otherwise fails to timely address tasks necessary to settle the estate, the court can terminate their role. There are a number of different duties that can take time and can lead to an executor receiving executor fees. These can include:
- Providing notice of court appointment of the personal representative per AZ Rev Stat § 14-3705.
- Publishing a formal notice to creditors to notify them that the probate case is open per AZ Rev Stat § 14-3801.
- Providing an initial accounting and inventory of assets to heirs no later than 90 days after court appointment per AZ Rev Stat § 14-3076.
- Keeping detailed records of all expenses and receipts within the estate including an accounting to heirs per AZ Rev Stat § 14-3933.