Probate Attorneys in Hot Springs, Arkansas Helping Families with the Probate Process
You have probably heard people say that avoiding probate is a good idea, but do you know why? Every state has a slightly different probate process and different laws that govern it. Figuring out either how to avoid probate entirely or how to navigate it as successfully and painlessly as possible is where a skilled probate attorney can really help. Not every estate has to go through probate in Arkansas. Our probate attorneys can help you figure out if probate is required in your case and, if so, how to minimize any disadvantages of the process. Probate can be expensive and time-consuming, but the skilled attorneys at Dudeck Law Firm have the know-how to streamline the process and minimize both costs and time.
Call Dudeck Law Firm today at 501-327-3527 with all of your probate questions.
How Do I Know if My or My Loved One’s Estate Will Go Through Probate?
Unlike some other states, Arkansas does not require every estate to go through the probate process. There are a few factors that determine whether an estate will go through probate. First, is there a will? If there is no will (called dying intestate), the estate will go through the probate court, and the assets will be distributed according to Arkansas intestate succession laws.
If there is a will, it will need to go through probate if anyone is contesting it, if there are any unpaid debts as part of the estate, including a mortgage, or if the estate’s value exceeds $100,000. Only small, uncontested estates with no unpaid debts may bypass the probate process in Arkansas. In order to bypass probate for an estate that meets these requirements, an attorney will have to file an affidavit confirming that all debts have been paid and that at least 45 days have elapsed since the death. If the court accepts the affidavit, then heirs can gain access to the assets of the estate almost immediately.
Who Inherits if There is No Will in Arkansas?
When someone dies without a will in Arkansas, there is a set procedure the court will follow for disbursing assets, called intestate succession. Who inherits depends on the specifics of your family. If you have dependents but no spouse, the descendants split the assets evenly. If there is a spouse of at least 3 years but no children, the spouse inherits everything. If there is a spouse of fewer than three years and no children, the spouse inherits half the assets, and the other half goes to parents, siblings, or other relatives. Finally, if there is a spouse and children, 1/3 of personal property goes to the spouse, who also inherits 1/3 of real property in the form of a life estate. The children, in this case, inherit 2/3 of personal property and all real property except for the life estate.
If the deceased person was unmarried and has parents but no siblings, the parents inherit everything.If the person has siblings but no living parents, the siblings inherit equal shares.
If no living relatives can be found, the state of Arkansas gets to keep the assets.
Sounds complicated, doesn’t it? Having a will in place can save your loved ones a lot of stress and expense and give you the right to choose who inherits your hard-earned assets.
Do All Assets Have to Go Through Probate in Arkansas?
While the great majority of estates will go through probate in Arkansas, some of the assets within those estates will be exempt from the process. Any insurance policies, investment accounts, or retirement accounts that have a named beneficiary will not be part of the probate process. Assets held in certain kinds of trusts may also be exempt, as will be assets owned jointly with another person or persons.
If the total value of the estate is less than $100,000, is not contested, and has no unpaid debts, the entire estate may be able to bypass the probate process.
What are the Steps of the Probate Process in Arkansas?
Assuming there is a will, the first step in the probate process in Arkansas is to prove the validity of the will. For your will to be valid, you need to state that it is your will and sign it in front of two witnesses, who must also sign. The witnesses must be “disinterested parties”, meaning that they cannot be people who stand to inherit. If one of the witnesses is an heir, they must forfeit their inheritance. This is technically all that is needed to make your will valid in Arkansas. However, there is a way to speed up this step in the probate process. If a will going through probate is “self-proving”, which means that the signatures on it have been validated by being notarized, the probate process is likely to go faster. Otherwise, the court will have to contact the two witnesses who signed the will in order to validate their signatures.
Once the will has been validated, the probate court will oversee the administration of the estate, which involves the executor paying all debts and distributing any remaining assets to the heirs named in the will.
The probate process can be time-consuming and frustrating with all of the red tape and paperwork involved. Often, executors are nervous about performing their duties properly, as they can be held personally liable if things are not done correctly. The skilled and experienced probate attorneys at Dudeck Law Firm know the probate process inside and out. One of our experienced probate lawyers can help you as you go through this complicated process at a time when you are likely to be grieving and emotionally spent. We are here to relieve your burden. Call Dudeck Law Firm today at 501-327-3527 to get the help you need.