last will and testament documentWhenever an Arkansas resident dies and leaves behind real property or assets, there’s a good chance their estate will have to pass through probate.

During the probate process, a court will task the estate’s executor, if one has been named, with settling the deceased’s past debts and distributing their possessions.

Executing a Will

If you’ve been named the executor of a will, you’ll have responsibilities that go beyond simply reading off the decedent’s list of last wishes.

While the probate process differs from estate to estate, you may have to:

  • Determine whether it’s even necessary to begin probate
  • Approach the probate court and submit the proper forms to initiate the proceedings
  • Marshal the decedent’s assets—in effect, gather their assets, transfer accounts to your control, and appraise their overall value independently or with the assistance of a court-appointed overseer
  • Manage and protect the value of the decedent’s assets and investments
  • Settle any and all of the decedent’s outstanding, valid debts
  • Ensure the inheritors pay any and all necessary estate taxes
  • Submit a request to close the estate and begin distributing any remaining assets to designated heirs

Probate is an organized process. Arkansas, like almost every state in the country, requires that certain steps be completed within a specified timeframe.

If you’re managing valuable assets or a particularly complex estate, you may want to consult an attorney for assistance. In some cases, you may be held financially liable for failing to meet court-mandated deadlines or improperly handling assets.

Executing a Trust

If you’ve been named executor or party to a trust, then your responsibilities will be quite different from someone who was named executor of a will. That’s because, in most cases, trusts allow a decedent’s loved ones to circumvent probate in its entirety.

Trust executors, or trustees, must manage the assets, properties, and funds deposited in the trust responsibly and in accordance with both state law and the decedent’s wishes. Trustees have a legal duty to manage trust assets in a responsible way.

If, on the other hand, you’ve been named the successor trustee, then you have no active legal duty until the trustor passes away or becomes incapacitated.

Get Help When You Need Help

Executing a will or trust can be difficult, especially if you’re unfamiliar with Arkansas law and the probate court’s expectations. Although most probate cases resolve smoothly and without incident, executors may nonetheless be held liable by estate creditors or beneficiaries in the event of any dispute or error.

Contact Us Today

No matter whether you’re executing a will, acting as a trustee, or trying to set up your own estate plan, it’s never too late to ask for outside help. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you fulfill your obligations pursuant to Arkansas state law, minimizing your risk of liability while easing the burden of your duty. To get help today, send us a message online or give us a call.

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Carrie Russom Quraishi, JD, CAPP
Carrie provides personalized wealth management, tax and estate planning services to clients in AR, TX & TN.