When a loved one passes away, surviving family members confront numerous challenges. Navigating the legal complexities surrounding probate is no easier. In this blog post, the estate planning team at Milligan Law Offices team outlines the process for filing a probate petition in Arkansas and what to expect after filing.
4 Steps for Filing an Arkansas Probate Petition
An estate’s personal representative files a petition for probate in Arkansas in the decedent’s county of residence. The process involves obtaining specific documents, completing probate forms, and paying filing fees. Appointed personal representatives must also comply with notification procedures when probating an estate.
Here are some of the steps that are involved in the general probate filing process in Arkansas:
Step 1: Gather Necessary Documentation
Probate courts require supporting documentation when applying for probate. The documents you will need depend on the complexity of your loved one’s estate. You can check with an Arkansas probate attorney if you need help determining the specific documents you will need.
The list below is a good general starting point:
- Bank and financial account information
- Certified death certificate copy
- Last will and testament, if available*
- List of assets and equities
- Real property deeds
Once you have these documents, you can begin the probate process with the court. These duties generally fall on the shoulders of the executor or personal representative. However, if there was no will left behind, then someone over the age of 21 will need to petition the court for an appointment as well.
*If your loved one enrolled in the “Wills for Safekeeping” program, you may pick up a copy of the original at the county clerk’s office.
Step 2: Complete Your Probate Petitions
Start by downloading the necessary petitions from the Arkansas Judiciary website. These are the forms you will need:
- Form 1: Demand for Notice of Proceedings for Probate of Will or Appointment of Personal Representative
- Form 2: Petition for Appointment of Administrator or Administratrix
- Form 3: Petition for Probate of Will and Appointment of Personal Representative
- Form 4: Proof of Will
These forms require you to answer honestly, accurately, and to the best of your knowledge. Making errors on your documents can lead to legal issues in the future. Take your time to complete these forms as thoroughly as possible and always get professional legal advice if you need help.
Step 3: Get Witness Signatures on the Proof of Will
You only need to complete Form 4, Proof of Will, if the decedent left a will. This form requires witness signatures to complete. If you do not get the necessary witness signatures, your filing request will be denied.
Step 4: File Your Documents with the Probate Court
After completing the steps above, you are ready to file your petition with the probate court. Keep in mind that you must file your petition in the county where the decedent resided. For example, if your loved one died in Sebastian County, you will need to file your petition at the Sebastian County Courts Building in Fort Smith.
County court public offices are typically open from 8 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday. Court clerks can offer general legal information about the process of filing for probate, but they cannot provide legal advice. For example, they can tell you about the various forms available, but they are not allowed to tell you how to use them for your situation.
Filing for probate will require some fees. In general, small estate probate (under $100,000) costs $25 and general probate costs $165 to file. You may incur other fees depending on what you file. You can pay for your filing fees with cash, check, money order, or credit card.
What Happens After You File a Petition for Probate in Arkansas?
Probate can take several months or many years to complete. After you file a petition for probate in Arkansas, you can generally expect the following to occur:
- Newspaper notifications. The personal representative must give the decedent’s creditors notice in a widely distributed local paper to let them know that they can file an estate claim if money is currently owed. You must publish it weekly for 2 consecutive weeks and make direct communication with known creditors within 30 days.
- Paying estate claims. The estate must approve or deny creditor claims. Approved claims must be paid from estate proceeds. Denials will result in a hearing through the probate court.
- Final accounting. Personal representatives hold a serious fiduciary responsibility toward the estate. This responsibility includes transparency. Representatives must submit a final estate accounting to the probate judge for scrutiny and approval.
- Distributions. Upon approval, beneficiaries will receive their shares from the estate. The personal representative must always act in good faith and distribute bequeathments under the final court order. Otherwise, heirs may file a breach claim.
Get Legal Help from an Arkansas Probate Lawyer
Due to the complex nature of probate laws and how they can affect an estate, you may want to consider hiring an Arkansas probate lawyer. We can guide you and your loved ones through the legal process while protecting you and the estate from unsavory creditors and heirs. Our legal team can also strengthen your fiduciary responsibility strategy to lessen the chances of a future dispute.
Learn more about your legal rights when filing a petition for probate in Arkansas by reaching out to Milligan Law Offices. Call us at (479) 783-2213 or message us online for an initial consultation. Our legal team will treat your family with empathy and kindness during this difficult time.