After a person dies in Arkansas, their debts must be paid off and their remaining assets distributed to their heirs. This is known as probate, and it is done under the supervision of a probate court judge.
While every state has its own probate laws, the process tends to be pretty similar across the country. That said, here is a brief overview of how probate works in Arkansas.
Filing in court and naming a personal representative
First, after a person dies, a petition for probate must be filed with the court. The judge will appoint a personal representative to oversee the resolution of the deceased’s estate. Usually, the deceased’s estate plan will name who they wanted for their personal representative (also known as the executor). But if it does not or the person died intestate (without a will), the judge will choose someone for the job.
The personal representative’s responsibility is to settle any debts the deceased owed when they died, pay taxes owed by the estate and distribute the remaining assets according to the deceased’s will (if they left one) or Arkansas intestacy laws. The first step is to make an inventory of the property in the estate: bank accounts, retirement savings, real estate, investments and personal property like vehicles, antiques and collections.
Give proper notice
Once that is done, it’s time to give notice to all potentially interested parties that the deceased has passed away. Typically, this is done by contacting the deceased’s beneficiaries if they did not already know. Creditors are also interested parties. State law requires that the personal representative also pay to put a notice in the newspaper for at least two weeks to let creditors know. Then the creditors have six months to make a claim against the estate.
Taxes, debts and gifts
Meanwhile, the estate may owe income taxes. If it does, the personal representative must file the returns with the state and the IRS. Then, once all taxes and debts are paid off, the remainder goes to the beneficiaries named in the will or trust — or, if the person died intestate, the assets would go to the deceased’s heirs in the order laid out by the law.
Depending on whether the deceased did comprehensive estate planning or not, along with the size of the deceased’s estate, probate can be relatively fast and smooth or take a long time. Fortunately, the personal representative can hire an attorney to guide them through the process.