Not only is a will one of the most common estate planning tools, it is also a very important tool. With a properly drafted will, you can establish exactly how you want your estate to be distributed after your death. Without a will, you lose control over the distribution of your property, and instead it will be divided up according to the laws of intestate succession in Arkansas.
Under the laws of intestate succession, who gets what depends entirely on which family members have survived you. For example, if you have surviving children, they inherit your property. If you have a surviving spouse of at least three years, and no children, then your spouse inherits everything. If you were not married for at least three years, your spouse only receives half of your assets.
The requirements for a valid will are simple. In Arkansas, any person eighteen years of age or older, who is of sound mind, may make a will. “Sound mind” means someone who has not legally been deemed incompetent. The document must be in writing and signed by the person making the will, known as the testator or testatrix. If the testator cannot physically sign his name, he can make a mark or direct someone else to sign for him.
Witnesses are required
The will must also be signed by two witnesses to the execution of the document as well as to the signatures themselves. The witnesses to the will must also be at least eighteen years old and competent. It is recommended that the witnesses be disinterested parties, meaning that they are not beneficiaries to the will. Although a will is not invalid in Arkansas simply because it is witnessed by an interested party, if there are not at least two disinterested witnesses, then the interested witness can only receive the amount they would have received had the testator died without a will.
Self-proven wills in Arkansas
For a will to be considered “self-proven,” the testator and the witnesses must affirm the authenticity of the will in an affidavit before a notary public. The affidavit is not a part of the will and should be a separate document. The benefit is that, a will that is self-proven and unchallenged, can be probated in a simplified procedure. The witnesses do not have to testify in court because the will is automatically accepted as authentic. A will can be self-proven, either at the time the will is initially executed, or at a later time.
Codicils to a will in Fayetteville Arkansas
If you need to make a simple change to your will, like identifying a new executor, then a codicil may be appropriate. However, a codicil should never be used to change the overall meaning of the will, or create any conflicts about who will receive which property. Here are some things to consider when amending your will:
- Specify the portions of the will that are being changed and the changes you intend to make
- State that the changes become effective on the date the codicil is signed.
- Explain whether any of the original provisions of the will are being affected by the codicil
It may be simpler, however, to draft a new will if there are multiple cancellations and reinstatements of a will. That can make your intentions unclear and confusing. When it is all said and done, there should be no basis for challenging the will because the meaning of it is unclear to the heirs.