State probate laws determine what happens to a person's property after he dies. The probate process in Arkansas applies to everything from making wills to who is responsible for distributing property. Although probate typically involves court supervision, the process is usually handled by private parties.
Last Will and Testament
A last will and testament allows Arkansas citizens to determine how their property will be distributed. Anyone 18 years old and of sound mind can make a will. The will must be signed by both the testator and two competent witnesses who must also be at least 18 and capable of understanding what is going on. The witnesses must generally be disinterested, meaning they don't stand to receive property bequeathed by the will or through the laws of intestate succession. If any of the witnesses are interested parties, they won't receive the bequeathed property unless at least two other disinterested witnesses also sign the will.
When someone dies without a will, his estate is distributed through the Arkansas laws of intestate succession. These laws indicate who stands to inherit the property. For example, if a man dies in Arkansas and leaves behind a wife, two siblings and no children, the wife stands to inherit the entirety of the estate. However, if the couple had been married for less than three years, the wife inherits 50% of the estate, with the rest divided between the two siblings.
The probate process in Arkansas begins when someone dies. Anyone in possession of the will must turn it in to the Arkansas county clerk where the decedent lived. Once the court receives a copy of the will, it will name an executor (sometimes called a personal representative) to oversee the probate process. This involves taking an inventory of all estate assets and debts, contacting any interested parties and then distributing any remaining assets in accordance with the terms of the will. If the decedent left no will behind, the executor will distribute the property according to the laws of intestate succession.