If you find yourself in charge of handling the administration of an estate in Arkansas, one of the first things you should do is determine if the estate is required to go through formal probate. Because of the potential ramifications of making a mistake, you should always consult with an experienced probate attorney when evaluating an estate for probate. To get you started, however, the probate attorneys at Wilcox Attorneys, PA discuss how to know if an estate qualifies for small estate administration in Arkansas.
Who Handles the Administration of an Estate?
If a family member or loved one recently passed away, you may not immediately focus on the practical and legal steps that need to be taken. At some point, however, the need to settle the decedent’s estate will become an issue. Who handles the administration of an estate? How do you know if you are the person in charge of the estate? If the decedent left behind a Last Will and Testament and named you as the Executor in that Will, it means that the decedent chose you to handle his/her estate. If the decedent did not leave behind a Will (referred to as dying “intestate”), then the court may need to appoint someone to handle the estate. If you are the logical person for the job, you will likely petition the court to be appointed as the Personal Representative which is effectively the Executor’s counterpart in an intestate estate.
Why Should I Try to Avoid Formal Probate?
Regardless of the path taken to get there, if it appears that you are handling the administration of the estate, you will undoubtedly want to avoid formal probate if possible. One reason to avoid formal probate, if possible, is the time it takes for an estate to get through formal probate. Every estate is different; however, creditors have six months in Arkansas to file claims against the estate, meaning it takes longer than that for even a simple estate to get through formal probate. It also means that the beneficiaries/heirs entitled to probate assets must wait much longer to receive their inheritance than if the estate avoided formal probate. Another downside to formal probate is the cost. Probate fees, attorney fees, and professional fees (accountants, real estate agents etc.) can significantly deplete the estate assets, thereby diminishing the value of the assets finally passed down to loved ones.
Arkansas Small Estate Administration Requirements
The good news, whether you are in charge of administering the estate or you are a beneficiary/heir of the estate, is that Arkansas does have a small estate alternative to formal probate for estates that qualify. Governed by Arkansas Code §28-41-101, Distribution Without Administration may be available if the estate meets the following requirements:
- No petition for the appointment of a personal representative is pending or has been granted, meaning formal probate has not been started.
- It has been at least 45 days since the decedent’s death.
- The value, less encumbrances, of all property owned by the decedent at the time of death does not exceed $100,000. When calculating the value of the estate, do not include the value of the decedent’s homestead and the value of any statutory allowances for the benefit of a spouse or minor children.
- There are no unpaid claims against the estate.
If the estate meets the requirements for Distribution Without Administration, you may accomplish the administration of the estate by filing a properly drafted and executed Small Estate Affidavit with the appropriate court. Once the Clerk certifies the affidavit, a copy can be used to transfer property from the estate to the new owner or to collect money owed to the decedent/estate.
Contact Our Probate Attorneys
For additional information, please sign up for one of our FREE estate planning webinars. If you have additional questions or concerns about whether an estate qualifies for small estate administration in Arkansas, contact the experienced attorneys at Wilcox Attorneys, PA by calling 479-443-0062 to schedule your appointment today.