Every state has laws governing probate or the legal process that validates and distributes a will’s contents. For example, Arkansas law dictates that all estates with a total value exceeding $100,000, outstanding creditor debts, or active will contests, must go through probate.
Probate can be costly and time-consuming, but with careful planning, you can ensure that your heirs avoid this challenging step while they are grieving.
Are there exceptions to probate?
All Arkansas estates, regardless of size, must go through probate; however, heirs of estates totaling less than $100,000 may file a small estate affidavit to waive traditional probate if the estate is debt-free. Still, heirs must wait 45 days from the testator’s death to file.
Are there specific estate-planning vehicles to help avoid probate?
Arkansas law permits various estate-planning measures that can help estates exceeding the state’s maximum threshold bypass probate. For example, individuals may transfer their assets into a living trust that separates them from assets that must go through probate. Then, upon the testator’s death, those separate trust assets are no longer subject to probate and can transfer directly to specific heirs or beneficiaries.
The spouse of a deceased person in Arkansas may also gain access to property such as a home or vehicle through “tenancy by the entirety” laws. Joint ownership gives a surviving spouse full and automatic legal claim to such property. Also, these laws prevent creditors from foreclosing on a home that carries a debt in the name of the deceased spouse only.
Finally, testators can arrange to pay or transfer holdings in bank or brokerage accounts to specific beneficiaries immediately after death.
You can help your family avoid struggling with the legal steps of settling your estate while mourning by creating a thoughtful estate plan while you are alive.