Creating a will is an important step in planning the distribution of your estate (assets including real and personal property) following your death. Arkansas wills allow for any children, your spouse, other family members, and pets to be provided for after your death. LegalZoom works with the testator (or the person making the will) in creating valid Arkansas wills and in assigning a person (called the executor in most states) to administer an Arkansas last will and testament after the death of the testator.
Basic Requirements for: Arkansas Last Will and Testament:
1) Age: The testator must be at least 18 years old.
2) Capacity: The testator must be of sound mind.
3) Signature: An Arkansas Last Will and Testament must be signed by one of the following:
4) Witnesses: The testator must declare the will to be his or her own and it must be signed by at least two witnesses each of whom: (1) are 18 years or older (2) do not receive any property in the will (3) being present at the same time, witnessed either the signing of the will or the testator's acknowledgement of the signature
- By the testator.
- In the testator's name by some other person in the testator's presence and by the testator's direction
- By mark with the testator's name written near the mark, and witnessed by a person who writes his or her name as witness to the signature
5) Writing: A will must be in writing to be valid.
6) Beneficiaries: An Arkansas Last Will and Testament may make a disposition of property to any person, including but not limited to any of the following:
- An individual.
- A charitable organization.
7) Other types of recognized wills:
- Holographic Wills: A handwritten will is valid, whether or not witnessed, if it is entirely in the handwriting of the testator and signed by the testator. However, handwritten wills are discouraged because they may be more difficult to prove valid after the death of the will's author.
Distribution of Property:
A will can ensure that your property, also known as your estate, passes as you desire to family and loved ones after your death. Your estate consists of property and cash assets that you own, and may include bank accounts, land, furniture, buildings, cars, stocks and bonds, proceeds of life insurance payable to your estate, and pension plan benefits payable to you. Generally speaking, Arkansas laws are lenient in allowing you to distribute your property as you wish.
Other Purposes of Wills:
Our Arkansas wills form allows you to nominate a person who will act as guardian for your minor children.
You can name a person in charge of administrating your will, known as an executor (male), executrix (female), or personal representative, using our Arkansas wills form. A financial institution with trust powers can also serve as an executor.
You may leave all or part of your estate to a charity or institution.
You may disinherit persons from your estate.
Notable exceptions to the ability to distribute property:
Jointly owned property: Property owned by two persons with a right of survivorship cannot be distributed via will. When one party dies, the surviving party automatically becomes the sole owner of all jointly owned property (e.g. real estate, bank accounts, motor vehicles, and household goods).
Providing for Pets
Arkansas law currently does not have specific statutes pertaining to providing care for pets. However, the testator may specify a beneficiary as the new owner of a pet using our Arkansas wills form.
Changing and Revoking
Changing an Arkansas Will and Testament
An Arkansas will and testament may be changed whenever the testator desires.
A will can be changed through a codicil, which is a document stating additions or changes to the original will. If the changes are substantial, the will may need to be completely redone. Codicils must be in writing and signed by you, in accordance with the signature requirements of a will.
Revoking an Arkansas Will and Testament
An Arkansas will and testament or part of a will may be revoked (1) by a subsequent Arkansas will and testament which revokes all or part of the prior will expressly or by inconsistency (2) by being burned, torn, cancelled, obliterated, or destroyed, with the intent and for the purpose of revoking it by the testator, or by another person in the testator's presence and by the testator's direction.
Probate and Estate Taxes
Probate proceedings distribute your property as delineated in your Arkansas last will. After you are deceased, surviving relatives (or another person) should contact the executor or executrix named in the will. The executor or executrix should contact a lawyer who will submit a petition to the Court to admit the Arkansas last will into probate and to appoint a personal representative.
Notice of probate proceedings are published in the newspaper. After publication, a three month period is allowed for persons who may have claims against the estate to make their claims known to the Court. Six months are allowed for other claims such as personal injury. The personal representative has a duty to give actual notice of the claims period to any creditor who is known or reasonably ascertainable.
If the value of the estate does not exceed $50,000, excluding homestead and certain allowances to the surviving spouse and minor children, and no claims are made against the estate, a beneficiary of an Arkansas last will may file an affidavit with the Court to forego probate proceedings.
If federal estate tax is required, then the estate must file Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form-706.
Estates in value exceeding $600,000 are subject to Arkansas estate taxes. However, portions of an estate left to a surviving spouse are exempted from estate tax, known as the unlimited marital deduction.
For tax purposes, a gross estate is all property owned at death, certain property transferred during your lifetime in which an interest was retained, and sometimes property transferred within three years of your death. A taxable estate is comprised of the gross estate less certain exemptions and deductions.
If your gross estate is greater than $600,000 and you own property in Arkansas which is included in your gross estate, then file Arkansas Form AR321 estate tax return with the State of Arkansas, Department of Finance and Administration, nine months after the decedent's death. A copy of IRS Form-706 may be filed in lieu of Form AR321.
It is extremely important to make an Arkansas will if you want to control the distribution of your estate. If you die without a valid will, you are said to have died "intestate" and your property will be distributed according to strict Arkansas state laws.
The following is a very basic summary of Arkansas's intestacy laws.
Intestate Descent and Distribution:
Other than jointly held property, property will be distributed to surviving relatives according to Arkansas law.
Sole owner of real property, leaving children: this property would descend to your children. Any surviving spouse would receive a life interest in one-third of the property.
If you do not make an Arkansas will, you cannot distribute your estate to friends or charity.
Property not transferred through joint ownership, trust, or right of survivorship must go through probate court proceedings.
If you make an Arkansas will, your valid will prevents the laws of intestacy from deciding the distribution of your estate.