Key facts prospective personal representatives should know

On Behalf of | Jan 25, 2023 | Estate Planning, Probate |


Being the personal representative of a person’s estate is a significant responsibility under Arizona law. The personal representative is appointed by the court to perform the duties after a person dies. This is to distribute assets, oversee their affairs and follow the estate plan.

There are times when there is a dispute among family members and others who were involved with the decedent as to who will be the personal representative. The court has certain procedures and requirements for appointing the personal representative. Knowing how this is handled is imperative whether it is a formal or informal proceeding. Having professional assistance during this process can be crucial.

State law has certain rules regarding personal representatives

The court will name a personal representative using specific rules. Except in cases where a person is disqualified from being named the personal representative, the court will use a statutory protocol to choose a personal representative.

In order, it will be: a person who was named as the personal representative as part of a probated will; the surviving spouse of the decedent who is named in the will; other people named in the will; the surviving spouse; other heirs; or the department of veterans’ services if the decedent was a veteran or a spouse or offspring of a veteran. If 45 days have elapsed, a creditor can be named the personal representative. Finally, a public fiduciary can be named as the personal representative.

During formal proceedings, objections can be lodged as to who is named the personal representative. The size of the estate matters when there is an objection. If there is enough in the estate to satisfy the costs but there is not enough to discharge any unsecured claims, creditors can file a petition for the court to appoint a qualified individual to serve in the role.

In some cases, there is an objection to the surviving spouse being named. This could happen in cases where the decedent had a family, got divorced, and then remarried. The court could then appoint someone who the heirs, or others named in the will, nominate.

It is also imperative to know who is not qualified to serve as the personal representative. A person under the age of18 cannot serve. The court can determine that a person is unsuitable as part of a formal proceeding and bar them from serving. A foreign corporation cannot serve.

With estate planning and estate administration, legal assistance can be essential

Naming a personal representative can be complicated and invite legal disputes among the heirs, creditors, and others. Because this can be a difficult legal matter, it is important to understand how to move forward with the process and be protected if challenges arise. For this or any other aspect of estate planning and estate administration, it is important to have experienced legal advice to try and achieve a smooth and positive outcome.