The Case of the Missing Beneficiary: Why Finalizing Probate Settlements Should Be Set As A Priority
Probate settlements can cause numerous issues to arise in the course of finalizing probate, which is considered administering an estate of a deceased person. The executor of an estate must comply with specific legal requirements to discharge their duties. These duties include the organization of estate information, filing the decedent’s will, providing legally required information to heirs and beneficiaries, and taking an inventory and appraisal of estate assets.
Arizona Revised Statutes Section 14-3306(A) requires that an applicant applying for informal probate provide notice of the application to any person who has a financial or property interest in a decedent’s estate. Likewise, once a statement of informal probate has been issued by a court, Section 14-3306(B) requires the applicant to provide specific written information to all heirs and devisees of the admission of the will to probate within thirty days, along with a copy of the will. Once a personal representative of an estate has been appointed, Section 14-3706(A) requires the personal representative to complete an inventory and appraisal of estate assets within ninety days of their appointment.
The above represents only a few of the legal obligations required of executors. The discharging of all of these legal duties can be frustrating and time-consuming for executors. Heirs and beneficiaries may also feel that the resolution of a decedent’s estate is taking too much time and energy. A contested administration naturally requires even more time to resolve disagreements. These concerns only deepen the longer the administration continues. The evidence related to an estate can grow stale as time passes, critical documents may be lost, new disputes among heirs and beneficiaries can arise, and legal bills may continue to pile up.
All too often, a single beneficiary appears to drop off of the map on the precipice of finalizing the settlement of an estate. This missing beneficiary may have moved, dropped their previous counsel and obtained new counsel who is unfamiliar with the matter, or simply disengaged entirely from the legal proceedings. Whatever the reason, we frequently see the final resolution of an estate be delayed by a single missing beneficiary.
Part of the challenge of any legal practice is the appropriate prioritization of legal matters. Attorneys and their legal teams strive to continually move the ball forward in each of their cases. The complexity and emotional strain of resolving a decedent’s estate, however, frequently makes the finalizing of an estate one of the most time-consuming legal matters. It is not uncommon for the full resolution of a contested estate to take several years.
For this reason, our legal team always sets the finalizing of an estate as a top priority. We strive to move our probate clients’ matters toward a complete resolution as soon as possible. Whether our client is an executor, heir, or beneficiary, time is of the essence in finalizing probate settlements in any estate. If you have questions on any probate issue, please contact our firm at (480) 833-1113.