Judge Rules Electronic Will Written on Tablet Is Valid – Are E-Wills the Future in Arizona?

By | Probate, Wills and Trusts | No Comments

Samsung Galaxy tablet owner, Javier Castro wrote his will on the device after learning that he needed a blood transfusion to survive his illness. Being a Jehovah’s Witness, Javier refused to have the procedure, thus he passed away shortly after.

Following his death, members of the family printed the will and gave it to the probate court. Albie and Miguel Castro testified that Javier told them how he wanted to divide his estate and that Miguel wrote down his wishes on the tablet and Javier then signed it.

Lorain County, Ohio Probate Judge James Walther ruled that the will was legal. In his decision, the judge noted that Ohio law lacks any provisions dealing with electronic wills. He also stated this needs to be addressed. “I can only think this is going to be utilized more and more, so it would be good to have some guidance.”

In order to be valid, a will must meet certain qualifications. The person creating the will must be eighteen years of age, be of sound mind, and not be unduly influenced by another person. The will must be signed.

Arizona law recognizes wills that are non-self-proved, self-proved, and handwritten. Non-self-proved wills are wills that have been signed by the estate owner and two witnesses. Self-proved wills are wills that have been confirmed by the estate owner and two witnesses in front of an officer “authorized to administer oaths under the laws of the state,” such as a notary public (Arizona Revised Statute 14-2504).  For a handwritten will to be valid in Arizona, the signature and the material provisions must be in the handwriting of the testator.

Because it was typed instead of handwritten and not confirmed by a public notary, Javier Castro’s will would be considered a non-self-proved will.

If you are questioning the validity of a will, please call the JacksonWhite Probate Litigation Team at 480-464-1111.

A probate attorney can help with trust administration

By | Probate, Special Needs Trusts | No Comments

There seems to be a lot of talk about the ways in which people can minimize probate, if not avoid it altogether.  Perhaps most commonly, people use a revocable living trust to accomplish this goal.  Without diminishing the usefulness of revocable living trusts, people considering such an option should know that trust administration requires attention to detail and a basic comprehension of the legalities surrounding the process.

Just like with AZ probate, many trustees ultimately require an AZ probate lawyer to help them administer even a simple trust.  First of all, trustees must decipher the trust document and become familiar with its guiding terms.  Although a trust document itself provides specific instructions, understanding trust language is not always simple to do.  Next, trustees must inventorize trust assets and perform a title check on all real property belonging to the trust.  Trustees must also give notice of administration to every trust beneficiary, and in some instances have the trust assets appraised before proceeding.  In addition to all of this, sometimes trustees have to deal with creditor claims and tax issues before finally distributing the trust assets and closing the trust.

The good news is that trustees do not have to administer a trust without assistance.  An Arizona probate lawyer with an understanding of trust administration can be a great help.  Depending on the situation’s complexity, a trustee may require more or less involvement from his or her attorney.  Under any set of circumstances, however, a trustee should seek legal counsel to assist with trust administration.  East Valley residents with questions about trust administration have much to gain from recruiting the assistance of a Mesa probate lawyer.


Personal representatives must avoid conflicts of interest

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Under the Arizona Probate Code, personal representatives have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of the estate to which they are appointed to oversee.  This fiduciary duty prohibits personal representatives from advancing their own interests.  Many times, however, personal representatives are also situated to inherit a portion of the decedent’s estate.  Because these situations are inherently susceptible to conflicts of interest, the Arizona Probate Code provides specific instructions on how to approach them.  Under the Arizona Probate Code, the following situations may give rise to a conflict of interest:

Conflicts of interest include any sale or encumbrance to the personal representative, his spouse, agent or attorney, or any corporation or trust in which he has a substantial beneficial interest, or any transaction which is affected by a substantial conflict of interest on the part of the personal representative.  A.R.S. §14-3713.

Where a personal representative enters into a transaction that creates a conflict of interest, any person with an interest in the estate can petition to have the transaction voided.  This general rule has certain exceptions, however, that an Arizona probate attorney can help you understand.  To learn more about how to avoid conflicts of interest as a personal representative, or how to challenge a perceived conflict of interest, feel free to contact a probate attorney at JacksonWhite.



Duty to properly manage finances | Arizona Probate

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This is the final post in our discussion about personal representatives’ duties under the Arizona Probate Code.  So far, we have looked at the duty to give notice, the duty to keep an inventory, and the duty to take possession of personal property where necessary.  Now we turn to a duty that should be obvious, but one that many personal representatives nevertheless have difficulty with, the duty to properly manage finances for the estate.

While it sounds simple enough, managing estate finances can actually be very difficult in certain instances, and an Arizona probate lawyer can be quite helpful here.  For instance, Arizona probate law requires personal representatives to make tax considerations for the estate, which can be particularly complicated in larger estates where several properties are involved.  Further, Arizona probate law requires personal representatives to take efforts to preserve the estate, which often requires them to make important investment decisions on the estate’s behalf.

Personal representatives cannot be expected to know everything there is to know about finance.  However, personal representatives are expected to inform their decisions wisely to protect the financial health of the estate, and this many times involves seeking the assistance of a qualified Arizona probate attorney.  If you have recently been appointed to serve as a personal representative, it will be a tremendous help to seek legal counsel who can make help you keep your duties to the estate.