last will and testament documentEvery Arkansas adult should have an estate plan. Unfortunately, far too many people fail to appreciate the significance of a simple will. Contrary to popular belief, a Last Will and Testament serves a purpose beyond making inheritance decisions—it can save your family substantial amounts of time, money, and energy. After all: if you pass away without a will, your legacy and loved ones will be left to the mercy of an Arkansas probate court, subject to a strict set of legal procedures that might privilege relatives you never planned to name as heirs.

Dying Intestate in Arkansas

When somebody dies without a will, the Arkansas probate court considers them to have passed away “intestate.” If someone dies intestate, many of their most valuable assets will be given to the jurisdiction of the court. Since the presiding judge will not be able to reference a will, they must—by law—distribute your intestate assets in accordance with a strict legal formula.

What Are Intestate Assets?

Arkansas’ intestacy laws affect any and all assets that would have ordinarily been passed through a will. Intestate assets could include:

  • Your home
  • An automobile
  • Cash accounts
  • A valuable collection
  • Artwork
  • Items of significant sentimental value

Assets That Are Exempt From Probate

Some assets are specifically excluded from probate and are not affected by Arkansas’ intestacy statutes. These include:

  • Any property or assets you have transferred to the control of a revocable or irrevocable living trust
  • The proceeds from a life insurance policy
  • An investment portfolio with a transfer-upon-death clause
  • Automobiles held with a transfer-upon-death agreement
  • Payable-on-death bank accounts
  • Any property you own jointly with a spouse, family member, or friend

The above assets are typically excluded from intestacy proceedings and probate because they are already subject to transference agreements. Such assets will be disbursed to the named beneficiary or beneficiaries irrespective of whether you have a will.

How Intestacy Inheritances Work

If you pass away without a will, the Arkansas probate court will distribute inheritances in accordance with a strict legal formula that privileges close relatives, as follows:

  • If you have a spouse but no children, then all of your intestate assets will pass to your surviving spouse if you were married for three or more years.
  • If you have a spouse but no children and were married for fewer than three years, then one-half of your intestate assets will pass to your surviving spouse, and your remaining intestate assets shall be distributed to your living parent or parents. If you have no surviving parents, then they shall pass to your siblings or their children.
  • If you have both a surviving spouse and surviving children, then your spouse shall receive one-third of your intestate assets, with your children receiving co-equal shares of the remaining two-thirds of the estate.

However, Arkansas also has a special statute regulating the inheritance of certain real properties:

  • If you owned land and have both a surviving spouse and surviving children, then your spouse is entitled to a life estate equivalent to one-third of your land. Your spouse’s interest in the life estate is considered stricken upon death, meaning that they will be unable to determine who shall receive their share after they pass away. 

How You Can Avoid Leaving Behind an Uncertain Legacy

Quraishi Law & Wealth works with Arkansans of all different backgrounds. Our attorneys can help you identify and implement an affordable estate plan that both protects your assets after death and benefits you in life. We can help you:

  • Create a valid last will and testament in accordance with Arkansas state law.
  • Establish a revocable living trust to help your family avoid probate in its entirety.
  • Set up an educational fund for a child or grandchild.
  • Allow your loved ones to reap the benefits of an investment retirement account or pension fund.
  • Evaluate your accounts and property interests to find out how estate planning can help you reduce your current tax burden.
  • Determine an ideal, conflict-free succession plan for a family farm or small business.
  • Revise, alter, or otherwise update an existing estate plan.

Contact Us Today

Everyone needs an estate plan, and it is never too late to get started. Please send Quraishi Law & Wealth a message online or call us at 870-275-4304 today to schedule your consultation with an Arkansas estate planning professional.