Wills Attorneys in Hot Springs, Arkansas Assisting Clients with Estate Planning
Everyone says it’s a good idea to have a will in place, but do you really need one? You do. Having a will ensures that your wishes will be followed and your loved ones are taken care of when you pass away. We all like to think that won’t happen until we are very old, but sometimes the worst can happen when we are least expecting it. Don’t leave your family out in the cold if something happens to you. Make sure that you have provided for them and made your wishes known by having a skilled estate planning attorney from Hot Springs help you create a legally binding and valid last will and testament to provide for your family after you are gone. If you die without a will, it’s possible that your loved ones will be able to inherit some of your assets, but only after a long and expensive probate process in which the court will decide who gets what. You want to have some say over where your hard-earned money and property will go after you die. Having a will ensures that your wishes will be honored. Here at Dudeck Law Firm, we focus on estate planning and elder law. Our attorneys have the experience and know-how to ensure that your last will and testament accurately expresses your wishes and provides for your family in a way that will stand up in court. Call Dudeck Law Firm today at 501-327-3527 to start protecting your family’s future.
What Constitutes a Valid Will in Arkansas?
For a will to be valid, you must state that it is your will and sign it in front of two witnesses, who must also sign. If you cannot sign your own name, you can direct someone else to sign it for you while you witness the signature. The two witnesses must also sign in front of you and must be disinterested parties. This means that they cannot be people who will receive any inheritance. If someone who is an heir to the estate signs as a witness, they will lose their inheritance. This is all that is required for a will to be valid in Arkansas. However, to help streamline the process of administering your estate after you die, you should have all of the signatures notarized, if possible. This makes the will what is called “self-proving” and means that in the probate process, the court will not have to track down the witnesses to personally validate their signatures. This can save a lot of time and money for your family.
What if I Don’t Have an Inheritance to Pass Down?
It is highly unlikely that many people in America are completely without any possessions or assets whatsoever, but even if this were the case for you, there is one reason you might want to be sure that you have a will if you have any minor children. One feature of a last will and testament is that it provides the opportunity to name a guardian to raise your minor children if both parents die or are incapacitated before they reach adulthood. For most parents, this can be the most important feature of a will. No parent wants their child to be raised by a court-appointed guardian they may have never even met. While it is most likely that the court would choose a blood relative as guardian if possible, it might be a blood relative that you would rather not turn your children over to. In order to have a say in who might raise your child or children if you and their other parent are unable to, you must name a guardian in your will.
What Happens if I Die Without a Will in Arkansas?
If you die without a will in Arkansas, your estate will go through the probate process. During that process, the judge will apply a law called the intestate succession law to determine who will inherit your assets. 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.
The court will also appoint a guardian for your minor children if you have them. In most cases, the court will try to find an appropriate relative to raise the children, if there are any.
Probate courts do not recognize domestic partnerships, generally, so if you are living with a partner but are not legally married, your partner will most likely not be entitled to anything from your estate, regardless of how long you have been together or what agreements you made while still alive.
Do I Need an Attorney to Write My Will?
While it is technically possible in Arkansas to write a valid will without the help of an experienced wills attorney, it is not advisable to do so. Without comprehensive knowledge of the laws of inheritance and guardianship, it would be easy to make an error that could be devastating to your loved ones. Here at Dudeck Law Firm, the focus of our practice is estate planning and elder law. We have the skill and experience to help you provide for your family, even after you are gone. Call Dudeck Law Firm today at 501-327-3527 to get started preparing your will.