When do I need to open a probate?

When a loved one passes away it is common to worry about whether you need to open a probate to receive your inheritance. Probates are not always required; sometimes the assets will be subject to non-probate transfers or the value of the estate will be too small to require a probate.


Non-probate transfers pass assets from a decedent to a person of their choice without the need for a probate. Trusts are one of the most common non-probate transfer vehicles, allowing assets that are titled in the trust to go to their intended beneficiary, often without court oversight. Investment accounts, 401(k)s, IRAs, and life insurance benefits are also often subject to transfer outside of probate, according to what's known as a "beneficiary designation," in other words a person designated to get the benefit when you pass.


Additionally, probate is not required where the assets of the estate are considered small, such as when there is less than $75,000 in cash and other personal property or where the equity in real property is less than $100,000. In those circumstances, the assets may be transferred using a small estate affidavit.


If assets do not have a beneficiary designated or the value is greater than the small estate thresholds, a probate will likely be required. While probate may sound intimidating, the process in Arizona can be straightforward and approachable.


A qualified probate attorney can help you determine what process will be required in any particular circumstance and if legal assistance may be required.