FAQ Subheading

A will is a legal document in which you declare who will get your real and personal property. This can include expensive items like your car or vacation property, as well as small, sentimental items like photos and books. In your will you will name a person who is directed to follow your instructions for transferring your property. This person is referred to as an executor, because he or she is responsible for executing your wishes.
When someone dies without a will, the aftermath is absolutely horrible. Not only are you dealing with the grief of losing a loved one, but you also lose control of any and all of their worldly possessions. Without a will, bank accounts are frozen and a state law determines what is done with property of any kind—real or personal. If you have a valid will, the Courts will use the Probate process to transfer your property according to directions you stated in your will.
Arkansas recognizes certain “do-it-yourself” wills called holographic wills. To be a holographic will, it must be written entirely in your own handwriting and must be signed and dated. There are still problems with holographic wills and they should be used only in rare circumstances.

A trust is a legal method to control your assets while you are alive that will live beyond your death. One of the advantages of a trust is that it avoids the lengthy and costly Probate process. On our Probate page we stated that Probate is a process set by law to transfer property because you are no longer around to transfer it yourself. Well, a trust is an entity that does not die when you die. By setting up a trust, you continue to manage all of your assets while you are alive in the same manner you did before you set up a trust. But when you die the trust continues on and whoever you name as your trustee follows your wishes, including managing your assets. If you have children, you can use a trust to state your wishes for the guardian for your children after your death.

Although the law still requires that any guardian must be approved and appointed by the Court, your trust can immediately establish funds for the named guardian to use to care for your children while waiting for the final guardianship papers. The trust can also direct your trustee to hire an attorney of your choosing and to pay the attorney fees that will be needed to set up the guardianship. Normally the trust will have some assets, even if only the proceeds of your life insurance, to help the guardian with the expenses to raise your children.

Probate is a legal process where Courts address what is to happen with our property after we die. Since we are no longer around to sign the title to our car or the deed to our home, the law provides for a way to transfer our property and to pay any valid debts we leave behind. This process is called Probate.
Small Estates valued under $100,000

This probate is faster and easier. It is available when the total value of all assets in the estate—personal property, all bank accounts, all real estate, etc.—is less than $100,000. It is filed 45 days after the decedent’s death, no personal representative is appointed, and there must be no creditor’s claims against the estate.

Probate for Estates valued over $100,000

Probate is more complex when the estate is valued over $100,000. The help of an experienced attorney is invaluable in the probate process. If your probate involves a valid will, the Court will divide the assets according to the terms of the will. If there is not a valid will, the Court will divide the property according to Arkansas laws that state who has a share in the assets. Some property is not part of the estate and passes directly to the joint owner or beneficiary outside of probate—such as life insurance proceeds, money in a joint bank account, retirement accounts and property held in trust. Real property is also not normally part of the estate. The Court will appoint a personal representative or administrator who will work closely with the attorney for the estate. The personal representative or administrator has the authority to act on behalf of the estate. The attorney will assist you in properly publishing the probate and notifying all heirs and creditors of the estate. Heirs and creditors have 6 months from the date the probate is published to file any objections or claims against the estate with the Court. If after 6 months no objections or claims have been filed then the attorney will assist you in closing and distributing the estate.