The process of dealing with a Last Will & Testament seems simple enough but disputes often arise between beneficiaries and sometimes executors, personal representatives, trustees, and other fiduciaries exceed their legal authority. When controversies arise, you need professional guidance from a qualified and experienced Phoenix probate attorney.
At Holland Law Group, we understand that end-of-life situations are stressful, and the last thing you want is to be embroiled in a legal dispute with family members. However, you have legal rights that must be protected to ensure the desires of the deceased are fulfilled. If you have questions regarding this complex process, contact one of our Phoenix probate lawyers without delay.
What is probate? A Phoenix probate attorney answers
Regardless of whether they have a Last Will and Testament, when a person dies their property needs to be legally transferred to the people entitled to receive it. The court proceeding to appoint someone to take on this responsibility and oversee the administration is called a probate. The probate process includes locating a person's assets and determining their value. The deceased's final bills, creditor claims and taxes are paid and the remaining assets are distributed to the rightful beneficiaries.
Even in cases where a Last Will & Testament wasn't crafted, probate is still required to ensure that the decedent's bills are paid and their assets distributed. The default laws governing an estate where there is no Last Will & Testament are called the laws of intestacy.
In either scenario, our Phoenix probate lawyers can help ensure the process unfolds smoothly while protecting your rights as a beneficiary. If you've never dealt with the process, you may be feeling confused and unsure of how to proceed. Not only are you dealing with the grief of losing a loved one but you must also decipher the legal jargon used in the probate process.
For your convenience, please refer to the glossary of probate terms on this page for a better understanding of legalese used by Phoenix probate attorneys.
Our Phoenix probate lawyers understand that this is a stressful time in your life
The probate process is an end-of-life situation that affects everyone involved. Grieving the death of a loved one is never easy but the probate process is often complicated by other life events like divorce, remarriage, joint property ownership and complex business relationships. The fact that a Last Will & Testament was drafted by the decedent is no guarantee that disputes won't arise.
Sometimes ex-spouses, siblings, and other beneficiaries and creditors disagree on the terms of the Last Will & Testament or seek a greater entitlement than the will or trust delineates. Situations sometimes arise when an executor, personal representative, trustee or fiduciary exceed their authority in administering estate assets. Our Phoenix probate lawyers also deal with situations where the executor or personal representative fails to perform their required duties according to the law.
While we do our best to avoid unnecessary court battles, sometimes litigation is necessary. Stress, anxiety, distrust, grief and uncertainty can muddle the situation and make it difficult to discern whether you're being treated fairly. If you have doubts, contact a Phoenix probate attorney from Holland Law Group and make sure your legal rights are protected and asserted.
How our Phoenix probate lawyers handle your situation
Litigation involving probate law and trusts is very unique. Most estate planning attorneys in Phoenix rarely enter a courtroom, and they prefer to keep it that way. Regular (non-probate) litigating lawyers are usually unfamiliar with probate law and court procedures related only to this legal specialty. Hiring an attorney who is not a probate litigator to handle a probate or trust litigation case is like hiring a podiatrist to perform brain surgery – not a good idea.
Effective probate litigation requires experience. Your attorney must be intimately familiar with Arizona probate and trust law. They must also know specific probate procedural rules and terminology. When you work with a Phoenix probate attorney from Holland Law Group, you have more than a decade of probate litigation experience in your corner.Our knowledgeable and experienced Phoenix probate attorneys spend most of their time litigating probate and trust disputes.We will fine-tune our litigation experience for your unique situation, providing you with the highest possible representation available.
During probate litigation, emotions often run high. We help you maintain focus with individualized attention designed to achieve honest results. Throughout this process, your Phoenix probate attorney will be at your side, defending your interests, while providing you with a listening ear when you need it most. Our caring approach to representation ensures you make informed choices, even when emotions threaten to derail the process.
Contact a Phoenix probate attorney from Holland Law Group today
Whether you're a personal representative, executor, trustee, or other fiduciary, contact a Phoenix probate lawyer today and get a better understanding of your duties. Your primary goals should be to carry out the wishes of the decedent while minimizing personal liability.
If litigation is required, we will help you navigate the complexities of the court while offering sound legal guidance based on extensive experience. Throughout this process, we will tirelessly fight to protect your interests.
A glossary of helpful probate-related definitions
Probate law is replete with a number of legal terms that many people are unfamiliar with. When you contact our law office, a Phoenix probate lawyer will help walk you through the process and explain your options. You will have a chance to ask questions and explain the reason why you called.
Take a few minutes to read the following A.R.S. § 14-7401 Definitions to better help you understand the terminology that governs probate law.
- “Accounting period” means a calendar year unless another twelve-month period is selected by a fiduciary and includes a portion of a calendar year or other twelve-month period that begins when an income interest begins or ends when an income interest ends.
- “Beneficiary” includes, in the case of a decedent's estate, an heir, legatee and devisee and, in the case of a trust, an income beneficiary and a remainder beneficiary.
- “Fiduciary” means a personal representative or a trustee and includes an executor, an administrator, a successor personal representative, a special administrator and a person performing substantially the same function.
- “Income” means money or property that a fiduciary receives as current return from a principal asset and includes a portion of receipts from a sale, exchange or liquidation of a principal asset, to the extent provided in sections 14-7410 through 14-7424.
- “Income beneficiary” means a person to whom net income of a trust is or may be payable.
- “Income interest” means the right of an income beneficiary to receive all or part of net income, whether the terms of the trust require it to be distributed or authorize it to be distributed in the trustee's discretion.
- “Mandatory income interest” means the right of an income beneficiary to receive net income that the terms of the trust require the fiduciary to distribute.
- “Net income” means the total receipts allocated to income during an accounting period minus the disbursements made from income during the period, plus or minus transfers under this article to or from income during the period.
- “Person” means any individual, corporation, business trust, estate, trust, partnership, limited liability company, association, joint venture, government, governmental subdivision, agency or instrumentality, public corporation or other legal or commercial entity.
- “Principal” means property held in trust for distribution to a remainder beneficiary when the trust terminates.
- “Remainder beneficiary” means a person entitled to receive principal when an income interest ends.
- “Terms of a trust” means the manifestation of the intent of a settlor or decedent with respect to the trust expressed in a manner that admits of its proof in a judicial proceeding, whether by written or spoken words or by conduct.
- “Trustee” includes an original, additional or successor trustee, whether or not appointed or confirmed by a court.
The following A.R.S. § 14-10103 definitions also apply to probate law.
- “Action”, with respect to an act of a trustee, includes a failure to act.
- “Beneficiary” means a person who either:
- (a) Has a present or future beneficial interest in a trust, vested or contingent.
- (b) In a capacity other than that of a trustee, holds a power of appointment over trust property.
- “Charitable trust” means a trust, or portion of a trust, created for a charitable purpose described in section 14-10405, subsection A.
- “Conservator” means a person appointed by the court to administer the estate of a minor or an adult.
- “Distributee” means a person who receives property from a trust other than as a creditor or purchaser.
- “Environmental law” means a federal, state or local law, rule, regulation or ordinance relating to protection of the environment.
- “Guardian” means a person appointed by the court to make decisions regarding the support, care, education, health and welfare of a minor or an adult. Guardian does not include a guardian ad litem.
- “Interests of the beneficiaries” means the beneficial interests provided in the terms of the trust.
- “Internal revenue code” has the same meaning prescribed in section 43-105.
- “Jurisdiction”, with respect to a geographic area, includes a state or country.
- “Person” means an individual, corporation, business trust, estate, trust, partnership, limited liability company, association, joint venture, government, governmental subdivision, agency or instrumentality, public corporation or any other legal or commercial entity.
- “Power of withdrawal” means a presently exercisable general power of appointment other than a power exercisable either:
- (a) By a trustee and limited by an ascertainable standard.
- (b) By a person other than in a fiduciary capacity and only on the consent of the trustee or a person holding an adverse interest.
- “Property” means anything that may be the subject of ownership, whether real or personal, legal or equitable, or any interest in anything that may be the subject of ownership.
- “Qualified beneficiary” means a beneficiary who, on the date the beneficiary's qualification is determined:
- (a) Is a distributee or permissible distributee of trust income or principal.
- (b) Would be a distributee or permissible distributee of trust income or principal if the interests of the distributees described in subdivision (a) of this paragraph terminated on that date.
- (c) Would be a distributee or permissible distributee of trust income or principal if the trust terminated on that date.
- “Revocable”, as applied to a trust or a portion of a trust, means revocable by a settlor without the consent of any person, including the trustee or a person who holds an interest that is either adverse or not adverse.
- “Settlor” means a person, including a testator, who creates or contributes property to a trust. If more than one person creates or contributes property to a trust, each person is a settlor of the portion of the trust property attributable to that person's contribution except to the extent another person has the power to revoke or withdraw that portion.
- “Special needs trust” means a trust established for the benefit of one or more persons with disabilities if one of the purposes of the trust, expressed in the trust instrument or implied from the trust instrument, is to allow the person with a disability to qualify or continue to qualify for public, charitable or private benefits that might otherwise be available to the person with a disability. The existence of one or more remainder beneficiaries without a disability of the trust shall not disqualify it as a special needs trust for the purposes of this paragraph. For the purposes of this paragraph, “person with a disability” means an individual who has a disability pursuant to 42 United States Code section 1382c.
- “Spendthrift provision” means a term of a trust that restrains either voluntary or involuntary transfer of a beneficiary's interest.
- “State” means a state of the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands or any territory or insular possession subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. State includes an Indian tribe or band recognized by federal law or formally acknowledged by a state.
- “Terms of a trust” means the manifestation of the settlor's intent regarding a trust's provisions as expressed in the trust instrument or as may be established by other evidence that would be admissible in a judicial proceeding.
- “Trust instrument” means an instrument executed by the settlor that contains terms of the trust, including any amendments to that trust.
- “Trustee” includes an original, additional and successor trustee and a cotrustee.