How To: Probating an Estate and Administering a Trust

Categories: Estate Planning , Probate

Probating an estate or trust is a bit like fixing up a car engine. You need to follow each step carefully to make sure everything runs smoothly. If you’re acting as a personal representative or trustee, here are seven must-do steps to successfully handle the process.

Inventory: First things first, make a detailed list of all the assets in the estate or trust. Think of it as taking stock of everything. Remember, this list will be scrutinized by family, friends, and even a court, so it’s important to be thorough and accurate.

Appraise: Once you have the inventory, it’s time to figure out the value of the assets. For everyday items with little value, you can use a similar approach as when you donate stuff to Goodwill. But for more valuable assets, it’s best to bring in the professionals. They’ll help determine the true worth of things like real estate, cars, or specialized collections.

Debts: Now, let’s talk about debts. You’ll need to identify all the creditors connected to the estate or trust. Make a list with names, addresses, account numbers, and amounts owed. Keep all the supporting documents handy because you’ll need them later when it’s time to settle up.

Seek Advice: Don’t go it alone—seek advice from the pros! Start by finding an attorney who can connect you with a network of helpful advisors, like CPAs, real estate experts, appraisers, and investment gurus. They’ll guide you through changing titles, managing taxes and debts, and navigating the legal side of things. Trust me, their expertise will save you a lot of headaches.

Prepare an Accounting: It’s time to crunch some numbers. Create an accurate and detailed accounting of where the money is going. Beneficiaries and heirs will want to see the breakdown, so make sure you’re on top of it all.

Proposed Distribution: Alongside the accounting, it’s a good idea to propose a distribution plan. In Arizona, beneficiaries have 30 days to object to the proposed distribution. Working with your attorney, craft a plan that minimizes objections and keeps everyone happy.

Distribute and Pay: Finally, it’s time to distribute the assets to the beneficiaries and settle any remaining debts. Make sure to get receipts and releases from the beneficiaries, so you’re all in the clear.

Remember, this list covers the basics, but there may be other things to consider in your specific situation. If you have any questions about probate or estate planning, don’t hesitate to contact Davis Miles McGuire Gardner at 480-733-6800 and ask for Bob Sewell or visit our website at for more information. We’re here to assist you.