Most of us will eventually be required to take part in the process of probating the estate of a loved one. There are specific laws in each state that determine the step-by-step process of probating an estate, including determining how creditors will be paid and how any remaining property will be divided among the heirs. Unfortunately, the process can be technical and sometimes complicated. Certain paperwork must be completed and filed with the court and specific deadlines must be met. The detailed requirements must be followed to the letter.
As such, anyone who is not familiar with the probate process already, should consult an Arkansas estate planning attorney. These attorneys are very familiar with the process and aware of the current state of probate law. Mistakes in handling the probate process alone will cause unnecessary delay. This will likely make creditors and beneficiaries very unhappy.
So, how long does it take?
In Arkansas, the probate court handles estates after an individual has died. The probate court is guided by and required to follow the rules of the Arkansas Probate Code. The first step is determining whether there is a will and, if so, whether that will is valid. Any challenges to the will are resolved by the probate court as well. All estates valued at more than $100,000 require probate proceedings. All personal property held only in the name of the deceased is included in determining the value.
The probate process typically takes anywhere from six to nine months to complete. This process can take longer when there are unusual assets requiring special attention. Unexpected problems that arise will also prolong the process. At worst, the process should not take longer than 18 months. Whenever there is a will, the process becomes much easier because the administrator and heirs have already been determined and identified in the will. So, there is less time spent waiting for the court to make those decisions.
Why does it take so long?
The probate process takes time because there are many things that have to be done. For example, the administrator, the person who is chosen to handle these tasks, is required to make an accounting of all assets belonging to the deceased. Any real estate owned must be appraised to determine the value. All creditors must be notified by placing a Notice to Creditors in a local newspaper for a period of time to allow creditors to submit claims for legitimate debts.
Beneficiaries or heirs must also be contacted. This step takes longer if there is no will because the court must determine, based on state law, which relatives will inherit and then locate those individuals.
Creditors and all others who may have an interest in the estate, have a certain period of time to make a claim. These time limits are established by Arkansas probate statutes. Once that time has passed, the court will no longer honor any legitimate claims. After creditors have been paid, property is divided and distributed among the beneficiaries and/or heirs. Once that has been accomplished, the case is discharged and closed out by the probate court. Although having an estate planning attorney is not required to go through this process, it is highly recommended that you consult an attorney, who can provide invaluable advice and help prevent costly mistakes.