If you have a substantial estate or a lot of potential heirs, there is a possibility that your last will and testament is going to be contested after you have passed. It is not very common, but it can happen. When it does, families are often ripped apart and the emotional damage can be severe.
One alternative is to have your will pre-validated or run through the legal process before your own demise. This is a provision unique to Arkansas and a small number of other states. It’s called Ante-Mortem Probate and if you want to be sure you have complete control of your estate it might be an option for you.
What is Ante-Mortem Probate?
The process is known by a number of terms, but the most common is its legal name, Ante-Mortem Probate, or the more common pre-validation. Your will is filed with a district court as if you have already passed on. The procedure is exactly the same with the exception that you are still around to see it happen.
Everyone who is a named beneficiary or immediate family member is notified of their rights in your will, and a period of 90 days is started for any contests to your will. If there are none, all parties named and unnamed have already had their chance to be heard in court.
Why is it not common?
There are three likely reasons why Ante-Mortem Probate is quite rare. It was authorized in 1979 by the Arkansas legislature, but few have been known to take advantage of it. The most important reason for this may be that many people do not know that it is an option in the first place.
Another important reason is that it requires you to confront any members of your family who feel they are being treated unfairly. Under regular probate, you would be gone and not required to deal with whatever squabbles might result. In Ante-Mortem Probate you will have to be present in court to defend your will in person. It is not a process for everyone.
Lastly, there is the ghoulish aspect of it which might limit its use. Many people do not plan adequately for their own demise with an appropriate estate plan as it is. Seeing that through to a conclusion would only reasonably be attractive to an even smaller number of people who are fully willing to embrace their own mortality.
It has its benefits
It is a good option for anyone who wants complete control over their estate or knows that their children are likely to engage in a long and bitter fight regardless of what is in the will. If you select to go through Ant-Mortem Probate, you may be able to keep your family from falling apart from squabbles and preserve a blood legacy that might be more important than money.
If your estate includes family land or a business you want preserved, you can also be very explicit as to who is granted stewardship and have a much more seamless transition. That can prevent neglect or other issues if you have an important multi-generational legacy that you want to be sure is preserved.
Pre-approval of your will is an interesting option in Arkansas for anyone who wants to take advantage of it. It may be worth considering as part of your estate plan for a number of reasons.