Superior Court >Law Library Resource Center >Glossary

Stages of Probate Administration The First Stage: Appointment of the Personal Representative and Admitting the Will

The first stage of the court process is started by someone who wants to be appointed the Personal Representative. The person who wants the appointment completes an Application for Informal Appointment of Personal Representative. Also, if no relative files an application for appointment within 45 days of the decedent's death, any creditor of the decedent can file the application.

If all documents are in order, the Probate Registrar will appoint the applicant as personal representative, admit the original of the will, if there is a will, and issue the Letters so that the personal representative can proceed with the administration of the estate. This is called an informal process, and all of this is handled without any court hearing at all.

If there is a problem about the priority or qualifications of the person seeking appointment, or if the person died with a will but the original is missing or there is a question about validity of the will, the case will start out as a formal case. This means there will be a hearing at court to iron out the problems with appointment and/or the validity of the will. After the hearing, the personal representative who is appointed by court order can proceed with administration of the estate informally, without more court hearings.

The Second Stage: Estate Administration

Stage two, the administration of the estate, begins as soon as the personal representative is appointed. The duties and powers of a personal representative are the same whether the appointment was made informally or formally.

A personal representative has these duties:
  • To settle and distribute the estate as quickly as possible for the best interests of the heirs of the estate.
  • To administer the estate properly without order or direction of the court, but, if necessary, to ask the judge to resolve questions concerning the estate or its administration.
  • To keep the interested persons informed of the progress of the administration.
  • To take possession or control of all of the decedent's property and pay all debts and taxes according to the priority of claims set forth in Arizona law.
  • To distribute any remaining property to persons entitled under law or under the will.
The Third Stage: Closing the Estate

The last stage of the administration process is closing the estate.

If the personal representative has not had any problems determining who is entitled to the property, he or she may close the estate informally. This means that the personal representative must give a closing statement in writing of the administration, to the heirs and claimants whose interest are affected by the distribution. The closing statement must include a list of the debts and claims that were not paid.

If no court proceedings against the personal representative are pending in court one year after the closing statement is filed, the appointment of the personal representative is ended. After the appointment has ended, a personal representative who posted a bond may ask the court for an order releasing the bond.

A personal representative may also ask the court to formally close the estate any time after the period for presenting claims has ended. Any other interested person may ask for a formal closing one year from the appointment of the personal representative.

If there is a formal closing, the court may approve or order the final distribution of the estate, end the appointment, and discharge the personal representative from further claim or demand of any interested person.

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