Probate is a process that most estates have to go through. It is a process by which the probate court monitors the administration of an estate according to the terms of a will. The executor of the estate will report to the probate court, which will make sure that debts are paid, assets are distributed properly, and all terms of the will are executed. The probate court also steps in if someone dies without a will. In that case, the probate court will appoint an executor and a guardian for the children if necessary. Then the court-appointed executor will distribute any assets according to the Arkansas law of intestacy, which specifies which relatives get what percentage of the estate.

Does Every Estate Have to Go Through Probate in Arkansas?

While most estates in Arkansas do have to go through the probate process, an estate planning attorney can file an affidavit to skip probate if the following conditions exist:

  • The estate has no debts
  • The estate is worth less than $100,000
  • No one is contesting the will

If the estate has any debts at all, including mortgages, probate is required. This is also true for any estate over $100,000 or any will that is contested.

Are Any Assets Exempt from Probate?

There are certain assets that do not have to go through the probate process, even if the estate contains assets for which probate is required. Assets that are exempt from probate in Arkansas include:

  • Assets in a living trust
  • Life insurance policies
  • Retirement accounts, including 401(k)s, IRAs, and others
  • Anything with a transfer-on-death provision, including real estate, vehicles, securities, and bank accounts
  • Joint tenancy real estate
  • Property that is passed to a surviving spouse by “dower and curtesy”
  • Any asset with a named beneficiary

What If Someone Dies Without a Will?

Dying without a will is called dying intestate. In that case, the probate court will step in to administer the estate according to established intestacy laws. First, the court will appoint a personal representative to take the place of the executor since no executor has been named. The personal representative will then have the authority and responsibility of paying the debts of the estate and distributing any remaining assets to family members according to the Arkansas laws of intestacy. The court will also appoint a guardian for any minor children if there is not a parent who can care for them. Notice will be published in a newspaper, and any creditors will have 6 months to respond and make a claim on the estate. After debts have been paid, the personal representative will file a tax return for the estate if necessary. Once that is done, the personal representative files a final account with the court and distributes the remaining assets. If the deceased has no living relatives, the remaining assets go to the state of Arkansas.