Jurisdiction of Probate Court in Arizona
The Superior Court has authority to deal with property ownership questions. But does the Superior Court acting as a probate court rule on matters other than the actual administration of the estate?
In Gonzalez v. Superior Court, 570 P.2d 1077 (1977), the Arizona Supreme Court considered this issue.
Facts of the Case
A.W. Chappell died. A probate estate was opened in the Superior Court of Pima County. In time, the personal representative filed an inventory.
Mrs. Gonzalez read the inventory. She noticed that it included a property she claimed to own. She filed a petition in the probate case. She asked the court to direct the personal representative to appear at a hearing about the real property.
The personal representative filed a motion to dismiss the petition. He argued that the probate court lacked jurisdiction to determine competing claims of ownership. The Superior Court granted the motion.
Mrs. Gonzalez filed a special action with the Court of Appeals. That court accepted jurisdiction and set aside the dismissal order of the Superior Court. The Arizona Supreme Court granted review.
Jurisdictional Limits of Probate Court
The Arizona Supreme Court considered the probate court’s jurisdiction to hear a matter outside the actual administration of the estate. Under earlier law, the Superior Court sitting as a probate court did not have jurisdiction to try title to land.
However, the Arizona legislature adopted the Uniform Probate Code effective January 1, 1974. The legislature intended to substantially revise the probate laws. The uniform act gave the court broader jurisdiction.
The Supreme Court reviewed the language of the law. It concluded that the legislature intended to confer give the probate court full constitutional jurisdiction in matters which might arise affecting estates.
As discussed above, the Superior Court sitting in a probate matter has jurisdiction over this matter. However, the Supreme Court noted that probate’s summary in rem procedure cannot be used to determine the rights of third parties.
The Court found that this quiet title action, although involving an estate, may not be tried on an order-to-show-cause procedure. The Rules of Civil Procedure continue to govern in such actions.
The Arizona Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Superior Court. It remanded the case for further proceedings.
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