Help for Arizona Personal Representatives
By Kent Berk on April 7th, 2014 in BLOG, Probate, PROBATE LITIGATION
When a loved one names you as an executor or a personal representative in their Last Will and Testament, and you are appointed as such by the court, you take on legal obligations and fiduciary duties.
In the role of personal representative, performing and providing an accounting of the estate’s total assets and liabilities is one of the most important set of tasks assigned. It requires patience, assertiveness, and the ability to organize the details of someone else’s life. It can be challenging enough without encountering resistance from someone refusing to cooperate with simply returning property or records that once belonged to the decedent.
Unfortunately, this is a common problem encountered by many people serving as personal representatives. On the other hand, Arizona law assists personal representatives in this type of situation.
For example, the Arizona legislature codified in A.R.S. § 14-3709 provisions for the “Duty of personal representative; possession of estate; discovery of concealed assets.” This statute puts anyone on notice that the personal representative “has a right to, and shall take possession or control of, the decedent’s property,” with some conditions and exceptions. The statute gives the personal representative broad power to recover estate assets and obtain copies of records that may reveal estate assets. Failure to comply with the statute, after court order, can result in fines and even jail time.
For example, the Court recently applied Section 14-3709 in In re Estate of Smith. There, the defendant sold property of the estate in Canada and kept the proceeds and also diverted $15,000 that belonged to the estate. The court of appeals upheld the trial court’s award of double the value of the Canadian property and double the $15,000 as provided in the statute.
If you have been named as a personal representative of an estate and would like assistance navigating the Arizona probate system, please do not hesitate to reach out to the probate attorneys at Berk Law Group, P.C. for legal advice.