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How does a will affect the probate process in Arkansas?

On Behalf of | Mar 8, 2024 | Probate

A will is one of the most important legal documents you will prepare in your lifetime. It ensures that, when you die, your assets are transferred to your loved ones and your kids are well taken care of according to your wishes. Some people prepare and plan this early, but there are also a handful of people who do not see the importance of writing a will. The length and complexity of a probate process depend on whether the deceased leaves a will or not.

Probate is the legal process of distributing the property of a deceased person. Almost all estates—properties left behind—of a deceased person go through probate in Arkansas. Small estates valued at $100,000 or less could bypass the entire process by filing a sworn statement. But what happens during a probate process, and how does a will affect it?

When there is a will

The probate process goes smoothly when there is a will and no one contests it. The assigned executor, the representative indicated in the will, must file a petition for probate. They must bring all relevant documents to the court, including the last will and testament of the deceased. The court will then evaluate the will’s legitimacy, officially appoint the executor, notify all interested parties, conduct an inventory of assets, determine its value, and distribute the assets accordingly.

When there is a will contest

Sometimes, disputes among family members could arise, and an interested party may want to contest the will. In this case, they should provide evidence to support their claim. The judge will then have to review the evidence and hear both sides of the story at a trial. The process might take years before the judge could announce a decision.

When there is no will

The process becomes more complicated when there is no will left behind. In this case, the court will be the one to appoint the representative to proceed with probate. The representative is responsible for identifying the heirs, but the probate court judge would be the one to decide on the distribution of the assets following state laws. The probate court would likely transfer properties to the deceased’s closest family first.

There is no exact timeline for estate planning. However, doing it early could prevent complications in the future. With a clear estate plan, you can express your final wishes and leave your family at peace during this challenging time.