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Sudden Wealth Blog

Navigating Probate to Transfer Property After a Loved One’s Passing

For sale sign in front of house. The text asks when do you need probate to transfer property?

When a loved one passes away, their property and assets must be transferred to their heirs or beneficiaries. If the property was in the deceased person’s name, then that property most likely needs to be transferred through the probate court process. This can be a complex and lengthy process. Understanding the process of probate to transfer property and the steps involved can help make the process smoother and less stressful for everyone involved.

What is probate?

Probate is the legal process of transferring a deceased person’s property and assets to their heirs or beneficiaries. It is necessary because it ensures that the deceased person’s debts are paid and their property is distributed according to their wishes or state law. Doing a probate to transfer property involves filing an application or  petition with the court. If there was a will, then that the court needs to determine whether the will is valid. If the will is valid, the terms of that will determine who has priority to become Personal Representative (called an executor in some states) and who inherits from the deceased person. If there is no valid will, then state law dictates who has priority to become the Personal Representative and who gets the deceased person’s assets.

What is the Personal Representative’s role?

The court then appoints a Personal Representative. That person then notifies creditors and beneficiaries, inventories the deceased person’s property, and pays valid debts and taxes. After that is all done, the Personal Representative can distribute the remaining property to the beneficiaries.

Why is it necessary to do a probate to transfer property?

Without going through the probate process, legal title to the deceased person’s assets can’t get transferred.

How does probate to transfer property work?

There is a short description of how the probate process works in Arizona on this Personal Representative training PDF.

Basically, the probate process begins with the filing of a petition or application with the court. The court will then appoint a personal representative to oversee the process. The personal representative will be responsible for notifying creditors and beneficiaries, inventorying and appraising the deceased person’s property, paying debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining property to the beneficiaries. The process can take several months to a year or more, depending on the complexity of the estate and any disputes that may arise.

What happens to property during probate?

During probate, the Personal Representative inventories the deceased person’s property. The amount of detail put on this inventory really depends on the level of conflict or mistrust among the heirs. Sometimes the Personal Rep will also appraise the property to determine its value. This includes all real estate, personal property, and/or financial assets that are in the deceased person’s name alone or otherwise are subject to the probate process.

The Personal Representative pays any valid debts or taxes owed by the deceased person from the estate’s assets. Once all debts and taxes are paid, the Personal Representative distributes the remaining property to the beneficiaries named in the will or, if there is no will, according to state law. It’s important to note that certain types of property, such as jointly owned property or assets with designated beneficiaries, may pass outside of probate and not be subject to the probate process.

How long does it take to do a probate to transfer property?

The length of time it takes to complete probate varies depending on the complexity of the estate and any challenges that may arise. In Arizona and other Uniform Probate Code states, there is a four-month creditor waiting period. Usually assets are not distributed prior to the end of that time. If there are challenges or disputes among the creditors or heirs, probate can take up to several years. It’s important to work with an experienced probate attorney who can guide you through the process and help ensure that everything is handled properly and efficiently.

Common Challenges During a Probate to Transfer Property.

There are several common challenges that can arise during a probate process to transfer property. Some of these challenges include:

Identifying all of the decedent’s assets.

One of the first challenges in the probate process is identifying all of the assets of the deceased person. This can be a challenge if the decedent did not leave behind a clear inventory or if some assets were held jointly with others.

Resolving disputes among beneficiaries.

Disputes among beneficiaries can arise during the probate process, particularly if there are disagreements over how property should be distributed or who should serve as the executor of the estate.

Paying off debts and taxes.

Before property can be transferred to beneficiaries, any outstanding debts or taxes owed by the estate must be paid off. This can be a complicated process, especially if the estate has significant debts.

Meeting court deadlines.

The probate process involves strict deadlines and court requirements, and failing to meet these deadlines can result in delays or even legal penalties.

Property valuation.

The value of some assets can be difficult to determine, which can complicate the probate process. This is particularly true for assets such as artwork or collectibles, where the value may be subjective or difficult to assess.

Navigating these challenges can be complex and time-consuming, which is why it’s often helpful to work with an experienced probate attorney who can guide you through the process of probate to transfer property. The attorney can ensure that everything is done legally and efficiently. It’s important to address these challenges as soon as possible to avoid delays in the probate process.

As a Personal Representative, You Can Be Liable for Making a Mistake.

One of the key reasons we suggest Personal Representatives hire a probate lawyer to help is this. A Personal Representative can be held liable for making a mistake.

Pursuant to A.R.S. Section 14-3712, “If the exercise of power concerning the estate is improper, the personal representative is liable to interested persons for damage or loss resulting from breach of his fiduciary duty to the same extent as a trustee of an express trust.” That means, for example, if a home decreases in value because the Personal Representative fails to act reasonably in selling the home, the Personal Rep could be responsible.

Here’s another example. Let’s say the Personal Representative fails to send out the Notice to Creditors in a timely fashion, and a creditor ends up costing the estate a lot of money litigating over a claim as a result. The Personal Representative could be personally liable. (We’ve seen this happen!)

Let Us Help You!

If you’re facing the daunting task of needing to do a probate to transfer property after the passing of a loved one, our law firm can help. Our experienced probate attorneys can guide you through the process, ensuring that everything is done legally and efficiently.

Don’t let the stress of probate overwhelm you – contact us today at 602-443-4888 to schedule a consultation. We’ll listen to your unique situation and provide you with personalized guidance and support. Let us help you navigate this difficult time and ensure that your loved one’s legacy is protected. Contact us now to take the first step towards peace of mind.



Founding attorney Paul Deloughery has been an attorney since 1998, became a Certified Family Wealth Advisor. He is also the founder of Sudden Wealth Protection Law.