Bond Law Office Sept. 22, 2020

According to an Estate Planning Awareness Survey by WealthCounsel, about three-quarters (74 percent) of Americans believe estate planning and probate is a confusing topic. In fact, more than half (53 percent) admitted that finding a trusted advisor to create the estate planning document is difficult. Unfortunately, settling the final affairs of a deceased loved one without a valid will or estate planning document is a lengthy and costly process.

If you are trying to understand the estate planning or probate process, consulting with a knowledgeable Arkansas probate and estate planning attorney is crucial for proper guidance. Our attorneys at Bond Law Office can answer frequently asked questions about the probate and estate planning process in Arkansas. We are proud to serve clients in Fayetteville, Waldron, Fort Smith, Harrison, and the Arkansas River Valley area.

If a decedent left a will, does the estate still need to go through probate?

Each state has its own rules regarding probate. In Arkansas, the probate process is mandatory even if there is a will. All contested estates and estates with a value of over $100,000 need to go through probate. If there are any creditors, including credit card bills, mortgages, or hospital bills, then the estate must also go through probate. Even if you have a will in place, the probate process is inevitable in Arkansas.

What happens if the decedent dies without a will?

In Arkansas, if a decedent dies without a will, it is referred to as "dying intestate." The court will appoint an individual to be the personal representative or executor. Upon the death of an intestate, real estate properties will be transferred directly to heirs. The executor or personal representative determines how the estate's personal property is disposed of or passed to the decedent's heirs.

What is the role of the personal representative in the probate process?

A personal representative is responsible for settling the estate or final affairs of the deceased person. The personal representative's role in the Arkansas probate process includes:

  • Identifying and collecting the decedent's assets that are subject to probate;

  • Locating important documents such as account statements, titles, retirement plan, and insurance policies;

  • Determining the value of assets;

  • Notifying heirs, beneficiaries, and creditors about probate through formal written notices;

  • Alerting other creditors by publishing a notice in the local newspaper;

  • Preparing an inventory and appraisal of the decedent's estate;

  • Keeping all estate property safe throughout the probate process; and

  • Properly distributing the estate's property to heirs and beneficiaries.

The personal representative has a fiduciary duty to preserve, manage, and protect the estate assets during administration.

What if the estate is small? Does it still need to go through probate?

Small estates are estates with a value of less than $100,000. In Arkansas, there is a simplified probate process for small estates that are uncontested. The executor or attorney can file a written request or affidavit with the local probate court requesting to bypass probate. However, the executor must certify that all debts against the estate have been paid. Pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. § 28-41-101, there is a 45-day waiting period before the estate can be distributed.

On what grounds can someone challenge the validity of a will?

An interested party may contest the validity of a will on the grounds that:

  • The testator lacked the requisite mental capacity at the time the will was signed; or

  • The testator was the victim of undue influence when the will was executed.

The person contesting the will is required to state the grounds for objection in writing and file the objection with the Arkansas court.

How a Probate Attorney Can Assist with the Process

Going through the probate process following the death of a loved one can be emotional and complicated. It is crucial to consult with a knowledgeable Arkansas probate and estate planning attorney for proper guidance and to preserve your family's assets.

Our experienced attorneys at Bond Law Office have the knowledge and resources to give you comprehensive answers to your frequently asked questions about Arkansas the probate process. We can provide you with experienced legal guidance and advocacy on all estate planning matters. As your legal counsel, our team will offer you compassionate counsel, strong litigation strategies, and help you navigate key decisions.

Call Bond Law Office today to schedule a free one-on-one consultation with an experienced Arkansas probate and estate planning attorney. We offer the detailed guidance you need to navigate through the entire probate and estate planning process. What happens to your assets should be your decision, not the court's decision. We proudly serve clients in Fayetteville, Waldron, Fort Smith, Harrison, and the Arkansas River Valley area.