Probate and Probate Litigation
Probate is the legal proceeding which provides for disposition of your property after your death. The Probate Court in Arizona is the division of the Superior Court which determines the validity of wills, decides contests between heirs, devisees and beneficiaries, oversees the administration of estates and trusts and decides matters concerning persons needing financial and physical protection due to their inability to handle their own affairs. Probate litigation arises when parties cannot agree upon issues subject to the Probate Court’s jurisdiction. In such cases the Court often conducts hearings and trials to determine the contested issues. A skilled probate litigation attorney can guide you through the complex issues and practical concerns that are present in these contests, which often involve family members that may have competing interests and agendas. To be successful in probate litigation, focus on the ultimate goals must be maintained and distractions due to personal animosity and historical grievances should be avoided when possible. Our probate litigators are experienced in helping their clients focus on ultimate outcomes and avoiding unnecessary arguments that will not affect the ultimate results sought.
Informal probate is a proceeding in which the court admits a will to probate through the filing of the will with the Probate Registrar and involves little or no judicial involvement in the actual conduct of the administration of the deceased person’s estate. Our skilled probate attorneys are able to help you navigate this process if appropriate for the situation, and file the necessary documents with the court, while avoiding potential pitfalls.
Formal probate is a more complicated proceeding that is necessary when there are issues with the will, a contest between the beneficiaries or when desired by a party due to conflict or potential conflict between interested persons. Formal probate requires active involvement by the court. That increased judicial involvement tends to make formal probate a more expensive proposition than informal probate, and one that is not resolved as quickly. Our probate attorneys are prepared to help you determine whether a formal probate is necessary, and to aggressively protect your interests in a disputed probate proceeding.
Guardianship and Conservatorship
Probate courts also have jurisdiction over other types of proceedings, like guardianships and conservatorships. These proceedings may become necessary if there is a dispute concerning a person in need of protection. Often, that person will be someone who has lost capacity and is no longer able to attend to their own affairs. If they have not made prior provisions for these circumstances, or if there is some dispute as to the person who is handling those matters, an appointment or removal of a guardian may become necessary, in order to protect the person, or 'ward', and to provide for their care.
On occasion, a minor may also be in need of protection. In such cases, it may be appropriate to file to establish a minor guardianship, to help provide for that child's care. Letters of guardianship are often necessary to provide for the medical and educational needs of a minor ward, if the person caring for them is not their legal parent.
A conservatorship is similar in character to a guardianship, but involves protection of the ward's assets and finances, rather than their person. Conservatorship may be required by the court, depending on the amount of property and income belonging to the ward. In such cases, arrangements generally have to be made to provide a bond, to insure that the conservator acts consistent with their legal responsibilities, or fiduciary duties, to the ward.
Conservatorships and guardianships are not always necessary, if a person has made prior arrangements through estate planning. Our probate attorneys can assist you in determining what the appropriate course of action is in the case of a person who has lost capacity or is otherwise in need of protection.
To set up an appointment with one of our probate litigation attorneys, please call our office at 520-795-7300.