Dying without a will does not mean your property will not go to your surviving family. Your closest remaining relatives will be in line to receive your property, based on Arkansas’s laws of “intestate succession.” The term “intestate” means without a will. So, instead of your property going specifically to people you choose, it will go to your relatives as determined by law. How your estate is actually distributed depends entirely on which relatives survive you (which means they are still alive when you die).
Intestate Succession in Arkansas.
The simplest answer to the question, “what will happen to my property if I die without a will,” is that your property will go to your closest living relative(s). The laws in Arkansas, establish the order of priority. Your surviving children, and the descendants of any of your children who may have died before you, will receive shares of your estate. If there are no children, your surviving spouse will inherit, unless you were married for less than 3 years at the time of your death. If that’s the case, your spouse will only receive half of the estate.
If you have no spouse or children, but your parents are still living, they will share equally. Next would be your siblings and any descendants of your siblings that died before you. Next in line would be grandparents, uncles and aunts, great-grandparents, etc. until there is no one else. Only then, would your estate go to the county where you resided at the time of your death. These laws were designed with the specific purpose of making sure your property is given to your relatives, even the remotest ones. So, unless you have no surviving family when you die, the county will not end up with your property.
A few limitations.
Intestate succession only applies to property that you owned in your name alone. If you have joint property, it will not be a part of your estate. For example, if you own a vehicle with your son and both of your names are on the title, the vehicle will pass to your son when you die. Some other examples of property that is not controlled by the laws of intestate succession are retirement accounts, life insurance policies and other items that have specifically named beneficiaries.
While Arkansas’s Intestate Succession laws are straightforward for the most part, there are some specific requirements for certain situations. For instance, a relative cannot inherit unless they have outlived you by at least five days. However, a relative who was not born until after your death, but was conceived before your death, can still inherit. Also, there is no distinction between “half” siblings, who are treated the same as whole siblings.
If you have any questions about inheritance, intestate succession laws or drafting a will, contact our office and we will more than happy to assist you.