The most common estate planning tool is the Last Will and Testament, or “Will” for short. As common as it is, not everyone has one. Deciding whether you need one is a personal choice, and there are many other estate planning options available, which can address your needs just as well. Many clients ask, if you do not have a will or any other estate plan established, what happens to your property? The answer is in your state’s statutes.
Intestate Succession in Arkansas
Each state has specific laws that outline how a person’s property is to be distributed at their death. These laws are known as the laws of “intestate succession.” The term “intestate” simply means dying without a will. Nearly all rules of intestate succession are based on which relatives survive you, and the closest relatives inherit first. The order of priority amongst family members may differ from one state to the next. In Arkansas, the order of priority is as follows:
- Surviving children, and the descendants of any predeceased child, divide the estate equally.
- Surviving spouse, if there are no children takes the entire estate. There is an exception if married for less than 3 years at the time of death. In that situation, the spouse only gets 50% of the estate.
- Surviving parents share equally if both survived.
- Brothers and sisters, and descendants of predeceased brothers and sisters, share equally.
- Grandparents, uncles and aunts and descendants of predeceased uncles and aunts, share equally.
- Great grandparents, great uncles and great aunts and descendants of predeceased great uncles and great aunts, share equally.
- Surviving spouse if married for less than three years, OR if the spouse of the decedent has already died, persons who would have been the heirs of the deceased spouse.
Clients often wonder if the “state” can get their property. If there are no individuals fitting into any of the seven categories listed above, then the estate “escheats” to the county where you resided at the time of your death. So, the only time the county would get your property is if you die without a will and have no surviving family. This rarely happens because the laws are intended to make sure your property goes to even your remote relatives, if necessary.
A few stipulations
The rules regarding intestate succession only apply to property that is in your name alone. In other words, if you own a car that is also in your son’s name, it will pass directly to your son upon your death. No one else can inherit that vehicle as long as your son is still living. Also, retirement accounts, life insurance proceeds and other specific assets, which have designated beneficiaries, do not pass on through the laws of intestate succession.
If you have questions regarding intestate succession, inheritance, or any other estate planning needs, please contact Sexton, Bailey Attorneys, PA online or by calling us at (479) 443-0062.