When someone comes to a lawyer with probate questions, typically, it means a loved one has passed away. Most people are unsure about what questions to ask during probate, leaving them at a disadvantage when dealing with a loved one’s estate.
If you are facing probating an estate or are contemplating estate planning issues, the Harris Law Firm is here to help. This blog post addresses common Arkansas probate questions and offers some information that may help you if you have to attend probate hearings or are thinking about your own estate plan.
What Is Probate?
Probate is the legal process of reviewing and “proving” a will in a court of law. This process occurs after a person dies and determines whether the person’s will is valid. Probate also helps determine how the deceased person’s assets will be distributed. If the will is valid, then the deceased person’s property will be distributed according to the terms of their will.
In Arkansas, the probate proceeding is called “administration” of the estate. Probate administration takes place in the probate division of the circuit court in the county where the decedent resided.
Is the Probate Process Complicated?
The probate process can be complex, and some of the most common probate questions have to do with the many steps involved in the probate process. In ideal circumstances, the deceased person names an estate executor in a will before they die. The executor is in charge of carrying out the probate process. Some of the executor’s major responsibilities include:
- Filing the required documents with the probate court;
- Sending notice of the person’s death to creditors, relatives, and other interested parties;
- Taking an inventory of all of the estate’s assets;
- Carrying out bequests from the estate;
- Paying any debts or taxes;
- Paying any debts or taxes; and
- Filing any documents required to close the estate.
Because the executor of the estate has so many tasks to complete, they may have a number of probate questions along the way. An experienced probate attorney can help you navigate probate, whether you are serving as the executor of a loved one’s estate or if you are a beneficiary.
Does Every Estate Need To Go Through Probate?
One of the most commonly asked probate hearing questions is whether probate is necessary for all estates. Depending on the value of the estate, it may be possible to eliminate the need for probate administration in Arkansas. If the value of the estate does not exceed $100,000 and there are no unpaid claims against the estate, you may be able to bypass probate. If the estate is eligible to bypass the probate process, then the executor needs to file the appropriate paperwork to distribute the estate without going through administration. In that case, an “affidavit for collection of small estate by distributee” would need to be filed with the appropriate probate court.
In addition to small estates, there are other situations in which property would not be subject to the probate process. In cases where property is transferred between parties who are joint tenants with a right of survivorship, or when property is held in certain types of trusts or accounts, the probate laws would not apply. If you have probate questions regarding estates that do not need to be probated, speak with a knowledgeable estate lawyer. A member of the Harris Law Firm can help you understand your rights and obligations.
What Can Make the Probate Process Easier?
Planning ahead can make the probate process much easier. Speaking with an estate planner and a probate attorney well before your death can help your loved ones more easily navigate the probate process. It will also help them answer any probate questions they may have about your specific wishes. On the other hand, if you pass away without a will, state law will decide how your property gets distributed. Additional ways to make probate easier would be to designate a beneficiary on your accounts or create a trust that will directly pass certain assets or property to a specific beneficiary without probate.
How Harris Law Firm Can Help
The probate process can take years and cost thousands of dollars to complete. Luckily, an attorney can help you plan ahead. Our team has offered clients probate hearing and estate planning services throughout Arkansas and Mississippi for over 40 years. 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 to discuss how we can address your estate planning or probate needs.