What is Probate in Arkansas?

 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!  

What happens if I die without a will or trust in Arkansas?

If you die without a will in Arkansas, the state decides who your heirs are. Every state has its own laws about passing property when you die. The answer in Arkansas to who gets what depends on your family makeup and who else in your family is alive when you pass away.  

Keep in mind as we go through the following scenarios that the property we’re discussing is “intestate property.” That means it is property that would have been in your will if you had had one. If you have a life insurance policy, for example, you have chosen beneficiaries. When you die, the life insurance proceeds go directly to the beneficiaries and don’t have to go through probate or any other legal process. Intestate property is also usually property you own in your name only. Putting property in a trust can also remove it from your intestate estate. 

Are you married? If so, for how long? If you have been married for longer than three years and don’t have children, then your spouse gets everything. If you have been married for fewer than three years, your spouse gets half of your property and your family (according to the laws of intestate succession) gets the other half. 

If you die with children or other descendants and no spouse, they get the property. If your parents are still alive, but you have no children, your parents will get everything. If you have no children, parents, or a spouse, then your siblings will inherit your property. 

Let’s go back to spouses. Even if you have a will, your spouse is entitled to 1/3 of your property, including getting to use 1/3 of your real property (a house, for example) for the rest of his life if you also have children. If you don’t have children, your spouse would get half of both your real and personal property. 

The distribution of your intestate property can be very complicated depending on your situation. If you have questions, call us to schedule a free consultation. 

 Get a free consultation by calling 501-374-0616 to talk to an attorney about what is right for your situation. 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!