When a family member passes away in Arkansas, their estate will go through a court-supervised process known as probate. A probate judge ensures that the personal representative carries out the distribution of assets to heirs as directed by the decedent’s will.
Probate requires time and court intervention. However, Arkansas’ small estate probate laws allow estate administrators to receive and distribute property without a lengthy and expensive probate process. When specific conditions are met, it is possible to shorten the length of the process or avoid probate altogether.
If you or your family need legal advice regarding Arkansas’ small estate probate laws, speak with an experienced attorney. He or she will answer your questions while providing additional guidance at every critical point in the process.
Avoiding Probate with Simplified Court Procedures
Like many states, Arkansas small estate probate laws allow estates to reduce or eliminate probate court involvement when distributing assets to heirs and carrying out other directives. There are two types of “probate shortcuts” that you might be able to use: property claim affidavits and simplified court procedures.
Arkansas Probate Property Claim Affidavits
If the value of your family member’s assets left behind is less than a specific amount, you can avoid probate entirely by filing a property claim affidavit in Arkansas probate courts. However, there are laws and procedures that you must follow to execute this strategy practically and lawfully.
For estates that qualify, the inheritor will complete an Affidavit for Collection of Small Estate by Distributee, which states that they are entitled to a particular property as described in a will or by state laws. You will sign this paper under oath and swear that the information contained within is accurate and to the best of your knowledge.
Simplified Probate Court Procedures in Arkansas
Arkansas small estate probate laws also allow for a quick, simplified version of standard probate procedures. Although the court still oversees the case, it exercises less control of the estate’s settlement. While some small estate probate cases do not require legal guidance, there are still legal questions that could arise, so you may need the assistance of an Arkansas probate attorney.
To get started on small estate probate administration, the estate’s executor will make a written request to the local county probate court asking to utilize the simplified probate court procedure. The probate court will approve or deny the request. If the request is approved, the executor may distribute assets to heirs without meeting the requirements of regular probate proceedings.
An estate qualifies for simplified probate procedures if it meets one or both of the following statutory requirements:
- Code Ann. § 28-41-103: The estate’s personal property does not exceed that to which heirs are entitled. A probate court judge can order that the entire estate belongs to a surviving spouse or children. He or she can also rule in favor of or against a notice to creditors.
- Code Ann. § 28-41-101: You can qualify for the small estate probate process if the total value of the estate does not exceed $100,000 (not including encumbrances, homestead exemptions, and statutory allowances). However, there is a 45-day waiting period.
If you wish to use option 2, you must also ensure that:
- No unpaid claims against the estate exist
- The decedent did not receive state or federal benefits
- The decedent has already reimbursed the government for receiving state or federal benefits
- You attach a list of all existing and known properties along with their market values
- You attach a legal description of all real properties, including the primary residence
- You attach a list of the names and addresses of owners or residents of any real properties
- You attach a list of the names, addresses, and relationships to the heirs of the decedent
The estate executor must attach a copy and pay a $25 filing fee to file the affidavit in the probate court clerk’s office. If the decedent owned property, a death notice and affidavit must be published in a local, widely-distributed newspaper within 30 days of the filing. The notice is a formality that states creditors can make claims against the estate within 90 days of the publishing date.
What to Expect from Using Small Estate Probate Laws in Arkansas
For your family to use small estate probate laws in Arkansas, your first step is filing an affidavit with the probate court clerk in the decedent’s county of residence at the time of his or her passing. The affidavit is filed by distributees along with their sworn statements, containing the seal of an active notary public.
After filing the affidavit with the county, the probate court clerk will sign and seal it for filing. Bring extra original copies of the affidavit to the filing so that the clerk can provide you with conformed—or certified—copies to take with you at no additional cost. You will then have the document that financial institutions need to handle assets after a loved one’s death.
Learn More About Applying Arkansas Small Estate Probate Laws
Milligan Law Offices understands that simultaneously losing a loved one and dealing with probate courts is challenging beyond measure. You can save time and heartache if your loved one’s estate qualifies under a simplified court procedure. We are ready to help you face this moment.
Get legal advice and support regarding your next steps from an Arkansas small estate probate lawyer on our team. Call Milligan Law Offices now for a free case evaluation at 479-783-2213 or by messaging us here.