Priority Among Persons Seeking Appointment as Personal Representative

Arizona law, in particular A.R.S. § 14-3203, sets forth the following priorities among those people potentially seeking appoint as the personal represetntive of the estate of a particular decedent:

A. Whether the proceedings are formal or informal, persons who are not disqualified have priority for appointment in the following order:

1. The person with priority as determined by a probated will including a person nominated by a power conferred in a will.

2. The surviving spouse of the decedent who is a devisee of the decedent.

3. Other devisees of the decedent.

4. The surviving spouse of the decedent.

5. Other heirs of the decedent.

6. If the decedent was a veteran or the spouse or child of a veteran, the department of veterans' services.

7. Forty-five days after the death of the decedent, any creditor.

8. The public fiduciary.

B. An objection to an appointment can be made only in formal proceedings. In case of objection the priorities stated in subsection A of this section apply, except that:

1. If the estate appears to be more than adequate to meet exemptions and costs of administration but inadequate to discharge anticipated unsecured claims, the court, on petition of creditors, may appoint any qualified person.

2. In case of objection to appointment of a surviving spouse, other than one whose priority is determined by will, by an heir or devisee appearing to have a substantial interest in the estate, and the surviving spouse is found by the court to be unsuitable, the court may appoint a person who is acceptable to heirs and devisees, whose interests in the estate appear to be worth in total more than half of the probable distributable value or, in default of this accord, any suitable person.

3. In case of objection to appointment of a person who is not a surviving spouse, other than one whose priority is determined by will, by an heir or devisee appearing to have a substantial interest in the estate, the court may appoint a person who is acceptable to heirs and devisees whose interests in the estate appear to be worth in total more than half of the probable distributable value, or, in default of this accord any suitable person.

C. A person entitled to letters under subsection A, paragraphs 2 through 5 of this section and a person age fourteen and over who would be entitled to letters but for the person's age may nominate a qualified person to act as personal representative. Any person age eighteen and over may renounce the person's right to nominate or to an appointment by appropriate writing filed with the court. If two or more persons share a priority, those of them who do not renounce must concur in nominating another to act for them, or in applying for appointment.

D. Conservators of the estates of protected persons, or if there is no conservator, any guardian except a guardian ad litem of a minor or incapacitated person, may exercise the same right to nominate, to object to another's appointment, or to participate in determining the preference of a majority in interest of the heirs and devisees that the protected person or ward would have if qualified for appointment.

E. Formal proceedings are required to appoint a personal representative in any of the following situations:

1. If there is a person with a higher order of priority who has not renounced or waived the person's right by appropriate writing filed with the court.

2. If a priority is shared by two or more persons, as devisees under subsection A, paragraph 3 of this section, or as heirs under subsection A, paragraph 5 of this section, and one or more of them has not renounced or concurred in nominating the person whose appointment is applied for.

3. If appointment is sought for a person who does not have any priority under this section, under this paragraph the court shall determine that those having priority do not object to the appointment, and that administration is necessary.

F. A person is not qualified to serve as a personal representative who is:

1. Under the age of majority as defined in section 1-215.

2. A person whom the court finds unsuitable in formal proceedings.

3. A foreign corporation.

G. A personal representative appointed by a court of the decedent's domicile has priority over all other persons except if the decedent's will nominates different persons to be personal representative in this state and in the state of domicile. The domiciliary personal representative may nominate another, who shall have the same priority as the domiciliary personal representative.

H. This section governs priority for appointment of a successor personal representative but does not apply to the selection of a special administrator.

This brief overview of some important considerations associated with Arizona probate law is by no means comprehensive. Always seek the advice of a competent professional when making important legal decisions.

Arizona Probate AttorneyDouglas K. Cook is an Arizona probate attorney with over 40 years of experience as a practicing attorney. Although Cook & Cook's office is located in Mesa, Arizona, the attorneys at Cook & Cook represent clients throughout the Phoenix, Arizona Metropolitan area including the following east valley cities: Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, Tempe, Chandler, & Gilbert.

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