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Probate Attorneys

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Our probate attorney team is led by Rufus Wolff and Vince Ward. If we can assist you with any probate matters, please call us today for a consultation at 501-954-8000, or submit an inquiry via our contact form available here.

Settling an Estate

Experiencing the death of a loved one or someone close to you is often very difficult. Dealing with the estate left behind can make the experience even more taxing, especially in the absence of estate planning designed to bypass the probate process. As probate attorneys, we can help streamline the process of settling an estate requiring probate administration.

Probate is the court process of settling an estate, paying the decedent’s debts, and distributing assets to beneficiaries.

How Long Does Probate Take?

In Arkansas, estates that are valued at more than $100,000 or those that have creditors may require probate. Typically, probate takes six to nine months to complete. In some cases it can take longer if: 

  • The validity of the will is disputed;
  • There are creditors of the estate;
  • The IRS needs to be involved for a taxable estate; and
  • More complicated assets such as real estate or a business succession plan are involved. 

Having a last will and testament created with the assistance of a probate lawyer makes the process easier and more time-efficient. A simple estate plan can be completed in as short as a few weeks.

Probate Attorney

Experienced Probate Attorneys

Our attorneys are accomplished in all areas of probate administration. We frequently represent people who are appointed to administer estates by their loved ones, as well as beneficiaries of estates who need assistance with protecting their rights with respect to their inheritance. 

Our probate attorneys are also experienced in defending and prosecuting the claims of creditors against estates. Whether an estate requires straightforward probate administration or involves complex matters and adverse parties, the attorneys at our firm can help you successfully navigate Arkansas’ probate courts.

What is Probate Court?

Probate court is a specialized court that hears cases involving the legal procedure of handling the assets and debts of a deceased person. The court is presided over by a probate judge who oversees a process whereby a last will and testament is validated, creditors of the estate are paid, and assets are distributed to beneficiaries. 

The people you designate to inherit your assets are sometimes referred to as the beneficiaries, or devisees. The person you designate to carry out the terms of your will is the executor of your estate, or sometimes referred to as the personal representative.

A probate attorney works with beneficiaries and executors of a deceased person’s will to settle their estate and affairs. A good probate lawyer: 

  • Makes the process as simple as possible for all parties involved;
  • Handles legal procedures of probate court;
  • Prepares and files a court documents;
  • Serves as a point of contact for creditors and debt collectors; and
  • Gives notice of the probate to creditors, necessary relatives, beneficiaries, and others.

What is the Probate Process?

Probate can be a complicated process depending on several factors. Generally, the process involves:

  • Filing a petition for the appointment of a personal representative and, if there is a will, to validate the will;
  • Giving notice of the probate to creditors, necessary relatives, beneficiaries, and others;
  • Creating inventory and appraisal of assets in the estate;
  • Paying out debts to legitimate creditors;
  • Paying any applicable estate taxes; 
  • Paying expenses of administration; and
  • Distributing assets to beneficiaries and heirs.

How Much Does Probate Cost?

The cost varies depending on different factors:

  • Value and complexity of the estate;
  • Existence of a will;
  • Where the estate property is located;
  • If the will is contested; or
  • Disputes with creditors.

Settling an Estate With a Will

After you file a petition for probate, the court will verify that the will was executed in accordance with Arkansas law. The presence of a properly drafted will typically makes the process smoother. The terms of the will guide various elements of probate like designating inheritance, guardianship of minor children, and who the executor will be. Otherwise, everything will be decided in court according to Arkansas laws of intestacy.

Under the law, a will can be contested due to:

  • Problems with how the will is signed and witnessed;
  • The mental capability of the deceased person signing the will;
  • The will was signed as a result of fraud; and
  • Undue influence.

Settling an Estate Without a Will

When someone dies without a will or other binding declaration and their estate goes into probate, then the court appoints an administrator of the estate and distributes the deceased’s property according to state laws. Intestate succession, or intestacy, is the process of a probate court settling a decedent’s estate without a will. 

Bills and Outstanding Debts

Generally, creditors have six months to file claims against the estate. Most of the decedent’s debts and taxes can be paid from the estate. These debts can include funeral expenses and attorney fees. 

What Happens If the Estate Cannot Cover the Debts?

If there isn’t enough money in the estate to cover the debts of the decedent, then the estate administration may involve distributing assets to those parties who have priority claims as determined under Arkansas law. 

Typically, Arkansas laws provide a specific order that outline how payments from an estate are made: first, funeral expenses; then, estate expenses, including legal fees, executor fees, and court fees; taxes; creditors; and finally, the beneficiaries.

Planning for Probate

It’s a good idea to plan for probate and avoid intestacy laws, because it can quickly become complicated and time-consuming. The best way to plan for probate is to use an estate attorney for writing a last will and testament, creating a trust, and naming beneficiaries for your estate assets.

Our probate attorney team is led by Rufus Wolff and Vince Ward. If we can assist you with any probate matters, please call us today for a free consultation at 501-954-8000, or submit an inquiry via our contact form available here.

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