Every state has its own laws regarding how to distribute property when someone dies with or without a will. Probate is the legal process to determine what will happen with the person’s property. The person who has died is the “decedent.”
When someone dies with a will, the will must be “admitted to probate.” In most cases, this must be done within five (5) years of the death. Someone—usually a family member or the person who was appointed by the decedent as the administrator—files a claim in probate court. In most counties in Arkansas, it costs $165 to file (Attorneys are charged $185). Other costs will include attorney fees, the cost to publish notices, administrator bonds, and more. Depending on the size of the decedent’s estate, costs can grow into the tens of thousands of dollars.
The proceedings are like most other court cases. The filings and any hearings are open to the public. That means anyone can look up the case. In many counties in Arkansas, the filings can be found online at : https://caseinfo.arcourts.gov/cconnect/PROD/public/ck_public_qry_main.cp_main_idx
Probate can also take a long time. The judge will help resolve any disputes, such as a will contest. Beneficiaries or heirs can contest their share of an estate, or someone could challenge the validity of a will. The court will require an inventory of the estate, and creditors will want what is due (mortgage, e.g.). Some assets, like a piece of art, may have to be appraised to determine value. It can also take time to change the title to assets. Then the estate will be distributed. Of course, the larger the estate, the more complicated the process can become.
Get a free consultation by calling 501-374-0616 to talk to an attorney about what is right for your situation. Often, it is safer and less expensive to set up a living trust, which can avoid probate altogether. We focus our practice in Pulaski County, Saline County, Faulkner County, Arkansas County, Conway County, Perry County, Pope County, Yell County, and Lonoke County. If you are elsewhere in Arkansas, we can still help, even if that means connecting you to a trusted colleague. Call us today!