Navigating the complicated probate waters is challenging, but an experienced attorney can make the process far less intimidating. If you have concerns about the future of your assets, here is a bit more information about how probate works and whether estate planning may help make the process a bit easier for your family.
Estate planning helps you decide how to organize your assets to the benefit of your loved ones after your passing. In Arkansas, the probate process is required for contested estates, or those larger than $100,000.
What is Probate?
In its simplest form, probate is the legal declaration that a will is valid. If you have a will, or like most Americans, you make no plans at all, your will must be taken to Probate Court before your property can be legally transferred to your loved ones.
It also involves the appointment or confirmation of an executor, an account and distribution of assets, and locating heirs.
The probate process is lengthy, expensive, and takes a lot of planning. The old adage is true: luck favors the prepared. Estate planning is no exception—if you properly prepare for the probate of your estate in advance, then the administration of your estate will likely go more smoothly when the time comes.
Do All Assets Go Through Probate?
In general, some assets are excluded from the estate and, thus, from probate proceedings. These include joint assets which are transferred to the other owner through the right of survivorship and retirement plans with named beneficiaries. An experienced estate attorney knows the ins and outs of probate law and can determine which assets are required to go through probate, and which assets are exempt. Additionally, a living trust will allow you to transfer more of your property to your loved ones than you otherwise could while avoiding probate.
Although there is no Arkansas estate tax or inheritance tax, beneficiaries may have to pay federal tax on money they receive. An attorney can tell you about the benefits of a living trust or other legal tools, which may reduce the size of the estate that has to go through probate. Having a knowledgeable estate attorney can help make navigating the probate process less daunting and more successful.
How Does Probate Work in Arkansas?
If the estate is small and uncontested, you can talk to your attorney about filing an affidavit asking to bypass probate. Among the issues you must certify is that debts against the estate have been paid. This can happen no earlier than 45 days after the individual’s passing. In most cases, however, probate is unavoidable. State law will decide who gets your property if you make no plans.
If probate is required because of the size of the estate, the executor files for probate and notice is given to affected parties. At this point, anyone who wants to contest the will can do so.
Where Can I Get Legal Help?
Probate can be a challenging, expensive and long process especially when you are living with the recent passing of a loved one. At Estate Planners of Arkansas, we have lawyers who practice in the area of Arkansas wills and probate everyday. To see how we can help you, contact us at (501) 414-8965 for a consultation today.