What is a will?
A will is a document that designates who manages your estate after you pass away. In Arkansas wills and probate law, the person who creates the will is called the testator, and the person designated to handle the estate after the testator dies is known as the personal representative.
You tailor the will to what is important to you. Many types of property may be included in your estate, including bank account funds, stocks and bonds, real estate, vehicles and boats, furniture, jewelry, or photographs. With each asset in your estate, you can designate who receives the asset upon your passing.
How is a will executed in Arkansas?
The execution of a will in Arkansas seems relatively simple. However, if you do it incorrectly, then it could affect the validity of your will, and your final wishes may not be honored after your passing.
In order to create a valid will in Arkansas, you should declare to two or more witnesses that the document is indeed your will. You should then sign the will in their presence. They should in turn sign the will to verify that they witnessed its execution and can attest to its validity.
This seems simple, but there are some pitfalls that you want to avoid. For example, the witnesses to your will should be disinterested witnesses, meaning that they are not persons who could potentially benefit from your will. Therefore, a witness should not be a potential heir or beneficiary. In Arkansas, the use of an interested witness will not make your will invalid. However, unless at least two of your other witnesses are disinterested, the interested witness cannot inherit a portion of your estate that exceeds in value what he or she would have been entitled to under Arkansas law if you had died intestate.
An estate planning attorney knows these obstacles, and others, that come with drafting a will. If you decide to hire an attorney to create your will rather than doing it yourself, then you can have peace of mind knowing that your will follows Arkansas probate code standards and will be valid in court.
Is a handwritten will legal in Arkansas?
Yes, a handwritten will may be legal, but it does not come without risk. A handwritten will that is written entirely in the hand of, and signed by, the testator and not witnessed by any other persons is called a holographic will. If you write a holographic will, the court will have to examine your will after your passing to determine its validity. In order to determine the validity of a holographic will, three disinterested witnesses who are familiar with your handwriting must testify that your handwriting and signature are authentic. After the handwriting and signature are deemed real, the will must go through the probate process like any other will. This generally takes nine months to three years or longer.
I have drafted my will. Now what?
Once you and your attorney draft your will and it is properly executed, you can keep that same version of your will for the rest of your life. This, however, might not be wise. After all, many things can happen between creating your will and the will’s admission to probate. You could gain money or property, get married, get divorced, or have a child. These things and more could affect your estate.
When you have a will in place, you never have to change it. However, it is a good idea to review it regularly to see that it still reflects your wishes. Some people only review their wills after a major life event like a marriage, the birth of a child, or the death of a loved one. Others have a standing appointment with their attorney on an annual basis to review and adjust their wills as needed.
Changing your will
There are a couple of ways you can change your will: either create an entirely new will, or add a codicil to your current will. If you choose to execute a new will, then you must revoke the old will. You can usually do this by adding a sentence to your new will saying you revoke all previous wills. It may be a good idea to destroy old versions of your will to avoid future confusion, but consult with your attorney to see how best to handle any previous wills.
If you would like to keep your current will but want to add an amendment, then a codicil is another option. A codicil is an amendment that changes an old provision of your will or adds a new provision. Speak with your attorney to decide if amending an existing will or creating a new one will best serve your purposes.
Speak to an estate planning attorney about your will
Creating a will is a sure way to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes after your passing. Discussing your options with an estate attorney is the best way to sensibly plan for your future. To learn more or to make an appointment, contact Estate Planners of Arkansas, P.A. today at 501-414-8965 for a free consultation.