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Are there benefits to the probate process?

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You’ve probably heard about the horrors of probate. It’s time consuming, expensive, and invasive. While the process does have it’s shortcomings (although these may not be as bad as you think), there are benefits to probate too.

Just so we’re all on the same page- probate is the legal process for distributing a person’s assets after they’ve died. The process includes assessing the validity of the will (if there is one), appointing a personal representative to administer the estate, and publishing notice to heirs and potential creditors. The court oversees the entire process and manages disputes between beneficiaries. The probate system was designed to ensure that a person’s property and accounts are distributed according to state law. Still, due to the drawbacks of probate, many focus their estate planning efforts on avoiding probate completely. They don’t consider the benefits of this system. Here are some of those benefits:

The probate process is reliable

One of the major benefits of the probate process is that it is a reliable system that is available to everyone after their death. The probate process is time-tested and follows a specific set of procedures. The court oversees each probate and ensures that the administration of each estate is done according to state law. This includes making sure that the personal representative is following the decedent’s will and that the assets are accounted for and distributed properly. Court oversight can help provide a peace of mind to both the decedent and the beneficiaries. The decedent can die knowing that there is a formalized process for carrying out the wishes in their will. The process can also provide a sense of fairness and finality for beneficiaries.

The probate process protects against future creditors claims

The probate process protects beneficiaries by limiting the amount of a time that a creditor can file a claim against the estate. Under Arizona Law, the personal representative must give written notice by mail to all known creditors. They also must publish a notice to creditors in the county’s newspaper of general circulation. Generally, creditors have 4 months after the published notice or 60 days after the delivery of the mailed notice to present their claim. Creditors are barred from making a claim if they do not make it within the time limit.

By setting strict time limits for creditors to make claims, beneficiaries can rest assured that by the time they get their distributions, all claims have been settled.

Probate can give formal resolution in disagreements between beneficiaries

Probate court offers a formal way to settle disagreements between beneficiaries of an estate. Estate administration can be a touchy subject for many families and can lead to a lot of disputes. Unfortunately, not all beneficiaries or family members agree on how an estate should be administered. Often times, one beneficiary or heir may look at the will and question if it is really valid. Beneficiaries may question if the decedent was of sound mind when they made certain designations. The beneficiary could also question if the will was a product of undue influence.

When these sorts of disagreements arise, having a court overseeing the probate process can be really helpful. The court acts as a neutral third party and can determine the validity of the will. They can resolve disputes between beneficiaries.

Other advantages

Not convinced yet? There are a number of other advantages to the probate process. The probate process ensures that all debts, taxes, and fees are taken care of before the assets are divided. The process can serve as a check against fraud. The probate process is accessible for those with smaller estates who feel estate planning is unaffordable. It also provides a process for those who die intestate (without a will).

But, just because there are some advantages to probate, does not mean that it should be your goal. If you’re considering different types of estate plans, consider doing a cost-benefit analysis to weigh the pros and cons of probate and probate avoidance. You should also consult with an estate planning attorney (like the ones here at Fleming & Curti, PLC) to discuss your options and what is best for you.

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Robert B. Fleming


Robert Fleming is a Fellow of both the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. He has been certified as a Specialist in Estate and Trust Law by the State Bar of Arizona‘s Board of Legal Specialization, and he is also a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation. Robert has a long history of involvement in local, state and national organizations. He is most proud of his instrumental involvement in the Special Needs Alliance, the premier national organization for lawyers dealing with special needs trusts and planning.

Robert has two adult children, two young grandchildren and a wife of over fifty years. He is devoted to all of them. He is also very fond of Rosalind Franklin (his office companion corgi), and his homebound cat Muninn. He just likes people, their pets and their stories.

Elizabeth N.R. Friman


Elizabeth Noble Rollings Friman is a principal and licensed fiduciary at Fleming & Curti, PLC. Elizabeth enjoys estate planning and helping families navigate trust and probate administrations. She is passionate about the fiduciary work that she performs as a trustee, personal representative, guardian, and conservator. Elizabeth works with CPAs, financial professionals, case managers, and medical providers to tailor solutions to complex family challenges. Elizabeth is often called upon to serve as a neutral party so that families can avoid protracted legal conflict. Elizabeth relies on the expertise of her team at Fleming & Curti, and as the Firm approaches its third decade, she is proud of the culture of care and consideration that the Firm embodies. Finding workable solutions to sensitive and complex family challenges is something that Elizabeth and the Fleming & Curti team do well.

Amy F. Matheson


Amy Farrell Matheson has worked as an attorney at Fleming & Curti since 2006. A member of the Southern Arizona Estate Planning Council, she is primarily responsible for estate planning and probate matters.

Amy graduated from Wellesley College with a double major in political science and English. She is an honors graduate of Suffolk University Law School and has been admitted to practice in Arizona, Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia.

Prior to joining Fleming & Curti, Amy worked for American Public Television in Boston, and with the international trade group at White & Case, LLP, in Washington, D.C.

Amy’s husband, Tom, is an astronomer at NOIRLab and the Head of Time Domain Services, whose main project is ANTARES. Sadly, this does not involve actual time travel. Amy’s twin daughters are high school students; Finn, her Irish Red and White Setter, remains a puppy at heart.

Famous people's wills

Matthew M. Mansour


Matthew is a law clerk who recently earned his law degree from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. His undergraduate degree is in psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Matthew has had a passion for advocacy in the Tucson community since his time as a law student representative in the Workers’ Rights Clinic. He also has worked in both the Pima County Attorney’s Office and the Pima County Public Defender’s Office. He enjoys playing basketball, caring for his cat, and listening to audiobooks narrated by the authors.