Probate is the process of of distributing a persons assets and settling their debts with or without a will after they have passed away. In the simplest explanation, the court determines whether a will is valid or invalid and then the estate of the decedent is administered. There are number of steps that need to be taken before the property is disbursed. The first determination is whether there was a will and whether it is valid. There are numerous reasons that wills may be challenged, but most wills go through probate without a problem.
The process will likely go smoother when the deceased individual has drafted a will prior to death. If an individual dies with a will, then we can advise parties such as the executor of the estate or a beneficiary on various legal matters thorughout the probate process. For instance, we will initially review the will to ensure the will was not signed or written under duress and that the will is not against the best interest of the deceased. For example, elderly family members or friends that have dementia can be sustible to undue influence by persons that stand to gain from the will.
There are a number of issues that need to be addressed throughout the probate process such as:
- Collecting and managing life insurance proceeds;
- Getting the decedent's property appraised;
- Finding and securing all of the decedent's assets;
- Advising on how to pay the decedent's bills and settle debts;
- Preparing/filing documents as required by probate court;
- Managing the estate's checkbook; and
- Determining whether any estate taxes are owed.
Dying Without a Will
Dying without a valid will means that person died "intestate." When this happens then property is disbursed according to Arkansas' intestacy laws regardless of your requests, needs, or wishes. Any part of the estate of the decedent not effectively disposed of by his or her will shall pass to his or her heirs.
We at the Childers Law Firm assist personal representatives (executors or administrators) who are assigned the task of probating a will or handling an estate for which there was no will (intestate). We can advise you on Arkansas probate requirements and the probate calendar that must be strictly followed.