Personal Representative Duties

When someone passes away in Arizona, their affairs must be settled and assets distributed in accordance with the provisions of their will or in accordance with Arizona’s law of intestate succession. AZ Rev Stat § 14-2102 and 14-2103. The personal representative is one of the most important people associated with the administration of an estate. This is because this person must file official paperwork and handle a variety of different types of tasks associated with closing out the estate of the decedent.

Understanding Personal Representative Duties

A personal representative has to handle a variety of different tasks associated with the administration of an estate. This includes the initial filing of the paperwork to be accepted by the court including the submission of any last will and testament. From this point forward, after the personal representative has been instilled in this role, it is their duty to inventory and collect the assets of the decedent. AZ Rev Stat § 14-3706. This is to get an overall picture of the size of the estate and the assets included within it. The next stage involves paying any outstanding creditors or bills that are associated with the deceased’s estate.

After this process has been completed, the personal representative then must distribute the decedent’s assets to anyone who is supposed to receive them under the will or through state law procedures if no will exists. On a face value these tasks might not seem overly complicated, however, there are many different issues that a personal representative must handle once he or she is appointed by the court. For example, disputes may develop during the process leading to a will contest or another type of probate litigation. The estate may have unusual assets that require extra effort to manage or that are difficult to sell. Particularly in the case of intestate succession, there may be heirs who are difficult to locate.

Who can Serve as an Executor?

Who has the right to serve as the personal representative in Arizona depends on whether or not the decedent left a will. Anyone nominated in a will to serve as personal representative has the right to serve. However, the person named in the will is not required to accept the role.

If the person named in the will chooses not to accept the role or is unable to accept it, or in the event that the decedent passed away without a will, Arizona law under AZ Rev Stat § 14-3203 determines who has the right to serve as personal representative. This usually goes first to a surviving spouse and then to other persons who might inherit the decedent’s property under intestate statutes.

Opening Probate

One of the most important responsibilities of an Arizona personal representative is to open probate. The will need to be formally appointed to the position by the court of the county in which the decedent resided at the time of death.

This requires the filing of an application for informal probate of will and appointment of personal representative. Formal probate may be required in the event that any creditors or heirs become adversarial or raise conflicts during the process of administering estate. Formal probate is also required in the event that any party alleges that there is a will contest or any other issues regarding validity of documents. There are significant differences between formal and informal probate.

For example, informal probate can be streamlined very quickly. In formal probate, however, a hearing has to be held by the court to verify that the will left by the decedent was in fact the last will and testament or to verify that the decedent passed away without a valid will in place. The gathering of assets and the distribution of any remaining assets after paying out debts and taxes is extremely important.

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