Person filling out estate planning documents


Bond Law Office March 24, 2021

A 2021 nationwide study indicates that 67% of Americans do not have a will. That means that thousands of Arkansas residents die each year without a plan for their estates, leaving the state’s probate courts to deal with the situation.

If you have been named by the court as the administrator of an intestate person’s estate, you might be wondering what responsibilities you have. Understanding the expectations of an estate administrator is the first step in being able to carry out the important duties assigned to this role.

At Bond Law Office, we help clients in Fayetteville, Fort Smith, and the Arkansas River Valley who have been appointed by the probate court to administer a decedent’s estate. You do not need to be a lawyer to be an administrator, but the counsel of an experienced estate planning attorney can help you understand your role and make it easier to carry out the required tasks.

Dying Intestate

Having a valid will allows a person to direct the allocation of their estate upon their death and to name the personal representative who will handle those duties. Those who die without a will die “intestate,” and their estates are handled through the direction of an Arkansas probate court.

Dealing with estates requires administration. If there is no will, and therefore, no named personal representative, the court will appoint an administrator. Upon appointment, the court issues the administrator “letters of administration” that authorize them to carry out their necessary duties.

Administrator Eligibility

Arkansas law specifically sets forth an order of persons with a relationship to the decedent that the court follows when appointing an administrator of an estate:

  1. Surviving spouse or person nominated by the surviving spouse

  2. Children

  3. Parent

  4. Siblings

  5. Grandchildren

  6. Next of kin entitled to inherit under the law of intestate succession

  7. Creditors

  8. Any legally competent person

Anyone who is over 18 years of age, not incapacitated, and is not a convicted and unpardoned felon may serve as an administrator. The administrator appointed will usually be a resident of the Arkansas county in which the probate matter is filed. If the administrator lives out of state, they will appoint a local agent to accept documents on the administrator’s behalf.

Duties of the Administrator

The duties of the administrator include:

  • Identifying all assets of the estate, including those that are not obvious, such as interest or dividends on investments or wages earned prior to death but not paid

  • Identifying debts and paying bills, including providing public notice as required by the laws of the opening of the estate

  • Protecting the assets of the estate by defending claims against it

  • Filing any lawsuits on behalf of the estate that would add to its assets

  • Paying all taxes owed by the estate

  • Distributing the assets of the estate

  • Closing out the estate with the approval of the court

How Our Skilled Team Can Help

Regardless of whether an intestate estate is small or large, the court-appointed estate administrator must administer the estate correctly. Working with experienced estate planning attorneys will relieve some of the stress of the job and help you comply with the law. It is a wise decision to have an attorney on your side to help you be successful.

At Bond Law Office, we have helped estate administrators and personal representatives carry out their duties for more than 25 years. We serve clients in Fayetteville and Fort Smith, Arkansas, the Arkansas River Valley, and Harrison, Eureka Springs, Clarksville, Waldron, Mena, and Van Buren. If you have been appointed to administer an estate in these communities, let us help.

Call Bond Law Office today to schedule a consultation.