Probate is a court-supervised process where a decedent’s estate is settled following their death. The process includes paying off debts, distributing gifts, and transferring the remainder of the decedent’s property. Many of our clients ask, How can I avoid probate in Arkansas?
The ease or complexity of the probate process depends on a number of factors, like whether the decedent had a valid will and the size of the estate. But you can avoid probate entirely with some sound early estate planning.
What Happens During the Probate Process?
Every probate proceeding differs based on the estate of the party who died, also referred to as the decedent. The probate process can change drastically if the decedent dies with a will, as opposed to without a will. If the decedent dies without a will, Arkansas intestate succession laws dictate the distribution of the estate. If the decedent dies with a valid will, the will outlines the distribution of assets. As a general matter, the administrator or executor of the estate executes the following tasks:
- Gives notice to beneficiaries under the will or state law,
- Completes an inventory and appraisal of the estate’s assets,
- Pays estate debts,
- Sells estate assets,
- Pays decedent’s personal taxes and estate taxes,
- Distributes the remainder of the estate, and
- Closes the estate with court approval.
This might seem like a lot of steps. Yes, the probate process is typically a slow, tedious process. Additionally, probate can get expensive. Fortunately, an estate planning attorney can offer you several ways to avoid probate proceedings.
Top Reasons to Avoid Probate in Arkansas
Some popular reasons for avoiding probate include:
- Avoiding the cost of probate,
- Faster settlement of the decedent’s estate, and
- Less opportunity for litigation.
A probate lawyer at the Harris Law Firm can help you determine how you can structure your estate so that your family can avoid probate proceedings after your death.
How to Avoid Probate in Arkansas
Some ways to avoid probate proceedings in Arkansas include:
- Using a living trust,
- Qualify for Arkansas small estate laws, or
- Transfer on death designations.
An estate planning lawyer can help you utilize any of these options to shorten or eliminate the probate process for your estate.
A living trust allows you to avoid the probate process entirely, as long as you put all of your assets into the trust. Then, upon your death, the property will pass according to the terms of your trust. So while you are alive and accumulating property, instead of titling that property in your own name, you will title the property in the name of the trust and name yourself as the trustee.
Small Estate Laws in Arkansas
If the value of a decedent’s estate does not exceed $100,000, you can avoid the probate process entirely by filing a property claim affidavit in the probate court. The affidavit is called an Affidavit for Collection of Small Estate by Distributee. Once you sign the affidavit under oath and swear that the information contained in the affidavit is true and accurate, you can file it with the appropriate probate court.
A probate lawyer can help you take care of this process and ensure it is done correctly.
Transfer on Death Designations
In some situations, property will automatically transfer to your named beneficiary upon your death. Thus, probate is not necessary to distribute any such assets. One example is property held as a joint tenancy with rights of survivorship. If you own a piece of property with someone as joint tenants, the entire property becomes theirs automatically upon your death.
For other assets, like bank accounts and brokerage accounts, you can complete a transfer-on-death (TOD) form that designates where the asset transfers when you die. Thus, after your death, these assets automatically transfer to the designee, thereby eliminating the need for probate.
Need to Know How to Avoid Probate in Arkansas? Contact the Harris Law Firm, PLLC Today
The probate process can take years and cost several thousands of dollars to complete. Luckily, an attorney can help you plan ahead. They can provide you with several options for avoiding the probate process altogether or making it less complex.
If you need help avoiding probate proceedings in Arkansas, one of our estate planning attorneys is here to help. Our team has offered estate planning services to clients throughout Arkansas since 1981. We approach each client with compassion and understanding. We listen carefully to your needs so we can create the most suitable estate plan for you. Contact us today so we can begin your estate planning journey.