Experienced Fayetteville Wills Attorneys Help You Plan Your Legacy
Arkansas attorneys work to develop and carry out final instructions
If you’ve been named as the executor of someone’s will or have been appointed to serve as an estate administrator, you have several duties that must be carried out in accordance with Arkansas law. The accomplished attorneys at Gramling Estes Law Firm in Fayetteville can help whether you reside in the area or live in another state. From start to finish, we offer comprehensive guidance on a full range of probate tasks and work diligently to see that ownership of land, vehicles, bank accounts and other assets is transferred efficiently to the proper heirs.
Skillful advisers guide clients through the probate process
Once an Arkansas resident dies, a legal process must occur to allocate the property he or she owned at the time of their passing. If the decedent left a valid will, that document directs how assets should be distributed. Where no will exists, the estate is settled by following the guidelines of the state’s intestacy laws. Whether you were named as executor in the will or were appointed by the court to serve as administrator for the estate, our firm can help you handle key probate tasks such as:
- Deciding on the appropriate process — If the decedent owned less than $100,000 in property, this is classified as a small estate under Arkansas law, which means that the executor or administrator can distribute property by signing an affidavit rather than obtaining court approval.
- Filing the will and Petition for Probate — Should the value of the estate exceed $100,000, the executor files the will and a Petition for Probate in the county where the deceased person lived. From there, the court typically appoints the executor as personal representative for the estate and issues letters testamentary, which authorize that person to transfer ownership of the decedent’s property into the estate. Notice must also be published in the local newspaper to alert any of the deceased person’s creditors.
- Inventory and estate administration — Estate representatives are responsible for submitting an inventory of the decedent’s assets to the court, paying expenses such as taxes and dealing with any probate disputes that arise.
- Distribution of assets — Once all property has been brought into the estate and any outstanding debts have been satisfied, the court issues an order authorizing the estate representative executor to transfer ownership of assets to the heirs named in the will. If the decedent died intestate, the property goes to the family members based on the priority system set forth in Arkansas law.
Many people who serve as the personal representative for an estate are not familiar with the complex provisions of probate law. This could create a serious problem because executors and administrators could be held liable if assets are not properly distributed. We give clients thorough, cost-effective guidance at every stage of the probate process and have significant experience advising residents from other states who have an interest in the settlement of an Arkansas estate.
Estate planning attorneys advise individuals on methods to bypass probate
Individuals who want to help their loved ones avoid the delay and hassle associated with probate do have several options. You can place assets in a living trust, access them throughout your lifetime, then direct that they be transferred to named beneficiaries upon your death. When one owner dies, homes, bank accounts and other assets that are held jointly become the property of the other owner. Life insurance proceeds, retirement benefits and investments designated for surviving beneficiaries can also be distributed outside the probate process. Working with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney gives you the ability to make things easier for your family during a difficult time.
Effective litigators handle will contests for executors and potential heirs
Several different potential grounds exist for contesting the validity or execution of a will. A challenger might allege that the terms of the document are the result of undue influence or a fraudulent representation made to the testator. Potential heirs might also allege that the will lacks the legal formalities required by Arkansas law or that the executor is violating their duty to carry out the instructions given left by the decedent. Should you believe that a will contest might be warranted or if you are an estate representative who is facing a challenge during the probate process, our firm will evaluate the facts and advise you on your legal options.
Contact a Fayetteville wills and probate lawyer to schedule a free consultation
Gramling Estes Law Firm in Fayetteville provides comprehensive counsel to clients inside and outside of Arkansas on wills and probate matters. Please call 479-480-4250 or contact us online to make an appointment for a free initial consultation.