The steps of settling an estate in Arkansas generally depend on the size of the estate. For example, a larger estate requires a more lengthy process, while a smaller one might not be as involved. If you have legal questions about what to expect in the estate settling process, always consult an experienced probate lawyer.
In this post, our legal team offers a step-by-step guide on settling large and small Arkansas estates and the role a personal representative plays in the estate process, including the official court documents you will need to download in order to file.
How to Settle a Large Estate in Arkansas
Step 1: Appoint a Personal Representative
Forms You Will Need
- Form 1: Demand for Notice of Proceedings for Probate of Will or Appointment of Personal Representative [Click here to download]
- Form 2: Petition for Appointment of Administrator/Administratrix [Click here to download]
The first step of settling an estate in Arkansas is to locate the decedent’s will and determine who they named as the personal representative of the estate. Once you’ve done this and the forms listed above have been completed, the next step is to file the proper documents with the probate court.
Step 2: Petition the Probate Court
Forms You Will Need
- Form 3: Petition for Probate of Will and Appointment of Personal Representative [Click here to download]
- Form 4: Proof of Will [Click here to download]
A personal representative’s first task is filing a petition with the probate court of the county in which the decedent passed. For instance, if your loved one died in Sebastian County, you will petition the Sebastian County Circuit Court’s Probate Division.
Step 3: Notify Named Heirs & Creditors
Form You Will Need
- Form 5: Notice of Hearing on Petition [Click here to download]
Once the court sets a probate hearing date, heirs have a right to be notified about the estate. Filing Form 5 will allow you to do this. You will also need to complete various forms regarding personal surety, bonds, letters of administration, and testamentary letters.
Creditors must also receive legal notice that they can file a claim against the estate for unpaid debts. In Arkansas, the personal representative must post a creditors’ notice in a widely-distributed local newspaper for at least two consecutive weeks.
Step 4: Inventory & Appraise the Estate’s Assets
Form You Will Need
- Form 17: Inventory of Decedent’s Estate [Click here to download]
The probate court will also expect an inventory of the decedent’s estate. The list should also include an assigned value, which may require the help of an appraiser to accomplish.
Assets to list include the following:
- Commercial property
- Personal effects
- Residential property
- Stocks and bonds
- Vacation homes
- Other items of value
Step 5: Handle the Property Sale
The next step is to sell the estate property and distribute the proceeds among the beneficiaries. In general, courts will oversee this process and approve sales. You can refer to the inventory asset list you created in Step 4 when referencing probate sale items.
As the personal representative, you determine which assets should be sold, which should be bequeathed, and which should be disposed of. Ultimately, you should always make decisions that are in the best interest of the estate. If you are unsure of what to do, an experienced Arkansas probate lawyer can help you.
Step 6: Final Accounting
Form You Will Need
- Form 20: Accounting by Personal Representative [Click here to download]
All probate proceedings conclude with the personal representative submitting their final accounting of all payments received and expenses incurred by the estate.
The final accounting form will ask you about:
- Cash values
- Taxes paid
You must include proof, down to the penny, that these transactions occurred. Carefully account for every transaction associated with the probate property sale by keeping receipts and invoices. It also helps to take notes about conversations that occur regarding transactions.
Step 7: Final Distribution & Estate Closing
After the court approves the estate’s final accounting, you will need to distribute bequeathments and assets among the heirs. You will also need to pay creditors and debts before officially closing the estate. As a personal representative, you are personally liable for authentic creditor claims that go unpaid.
Keep in mind that these 7 steps for settling a large estate in Arkansas are only a general outline. Depending on the facts and circumstances of your case, there may be more for you to do. Missing a single step can result in negative consequences, so be sure to navigate the process carefully and get professional legal advice when you have questions.
How to Settle a Small Estate in Arkansas
For decedents with smaller estates, there is a simplified process available to personal representatives. Essentially, you can close out the estate without the strict procedures that are required for larger estates. To do this, you must file a request for the simplified process with the probate court.
To exercise this option, the estate must meet the following requirements:
- Value under $100,000
- No unpaid creditor claims
- No government benefits drawn
You must also provide a list of appraised assets, legal descriptions of real property, and the names of current property holders and residents.
How Long Does it Take to Settle an Estate in Arkansas?
It takes at least six months to settle an estate through probate. The unique circumstances of your situation will influence this timeline. Many families wish to close estates quickly, and hiring a probate lawyer will help make the process as seamless as possible.
Prepare to Settle an Estate by Calling an Arkansas Probate Lawyer
When you are appointed as a personal representative of an estate, your personal liability is on the line. Personal representatives have a tremendous amount of legal and fiduciary responsibility toward the decedent’s estate. A single mistake can result in a dispute filed by beneficiaries and creditors.
The team at Milligan Law Offices will take on the stress and responsibility of settling the estate while avoiding the costly legal mistakes that can occur when a personal representative is unfamiliar with Arkansas estate laws. We offer our undivided and devoted attention to you and your loved ones as you endure this complex legal process.
Your family has already gone through enough. If you need responsive legal support during this time, reach out to Milligan Law Offices by calling (479) 783-2213 or messaging us online.