Creating a last will and testament is an important step for all adults, even if they don’t have children or much money. A will provides peace of mind that your wishes are known, and your loved ones are cared for. But how do you make a valid will in Arkansas? We have the answers to your FAQs about making a will in Arkansas.
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What If I Die Without a Will in Arkansas?
If you die after making a will, the will contains instructions on distributing your assets, real property, and personal property to your family members and loved ones. However, if you die without a will, called dying intestate, intestacy laws in Arkansas determine who inherits.
If there is a surviving spouse or a child, they inherit the estate. If not, Arkansas law says that next of kin, such as parents, grandparents, or siblings, are next in line. If they can’t locate your next of kin, the state of Arkansas gets all your assets.
What Does a Will Do?
Whether you have a small estate or a large one, an Arkansas will allows you to make your wishes known and do the following:
- Name a personal representative or executor who locates your will and assets, files the will with the probate court, and carries out your wishes through the probate process. Your personal representative may also notify social security and insurance companies of your death.
- Identify and give away specific items of personal property and real estate to your beneficiaries
- Name beneficiaries to inherit the rest of your estate
- Make charitable bequests to charities of your choice if you wish
- Name guardians for minor children to care for them, if necessary
- Name caregivers for pets and establish funds to care for them, if necessary
Since you leave instructions in your will, you streamline the probate process, saving your estate time and money in probate.
What Doesn’t a Will Do?
Your will transfers many of your assets to the people you select. However, there are some assets, called non-probate assets, that a will does not affect. These assets transfer according to the terms of their own legal documents and include:
- Property owned as joint tenants with right of survivorship
- Trusts, including property in a living trust and assets owned by trusts
- Funds in payable on death or transfer on death bank accounts
- Life insurance payments (to beneficiaries other than to the estate itself)
Making sure you have named beneficiaries on all your non-probate accounts and assets keeps them out of probate court.
Who Can Make a Will in Arkansas?
Arkansas law sets up requirements that testators, people creating wills, must meet, which include:
- Age: The testator is 18 years of age or older.
- Sound Mind: The testator is of sound mind. Anyone who has not been declared incompetent by a court or agency and is able to understand their choices is of sound mind.
The testator must have a sound mind at the time they sign their will. Arkansas residents with concerns about if they can make a will should consult with an estate planning attorney for legal advice.
Does Arkansas Have a Statutory Will?
No. Arkansas does not have a statutory will or prescribed form you must use to create your will. You can customize your will using online resources such as FindLaw Legal Forms and Services or consult an estate planning attorney in Arkansas for legal advice.
What Types of Wills Does Arkansas Accept?
A will is generally printed or typed and signed by the testator in front of witnesses. There are some other types of wills to be aware of and know if they are valid in Arkansas, including:
- Handwritten Will: A holographic will is a will that is entirely in the testator’s handwriting (nothing is typed or printed) and signed in their handwriting. It is valid only if there are three witnesses.
- Oral Will: A completely spoken will, called a nuncupative will, is not valid in Arkansas.
- Electronic Will: An electronic will is written and stored electronically or signed, witnessed, or notarized through electronic methods. Currently, Arkansas does not allow electronic wills.
Because any will other than a standard will can be subject to will challenges, it is best to avoid these methods when possible.
Can I Make My Own Will in Arkansas?
Yes. You do not need an attorney to create a will in Arkansas and can create your own based on your own wishes. However, because a will is a complex legal document, it is a good idea to get help from resources such as FindLaw Legal Forms and Services so you can be sure that your will meets Arkansas requirements.
How Do I Make My Will Valid in Arkansas?
To make sure your will is valid in Arkansas, it must comply with Arkansas law. Their requirements include the following:
- Signature: The testator must sign the will themselves at the end of the document. They could alternatively sign by making a mark near their name. They can also ask someone else to sign for them at their discretion and in their presence. That person must state that they signed at the request of the testator.
- Witnesses: Two witnesses must witness the signing of the will and must sign at the request and in the presence of the testator. The witnesses must be age 18 or older. An interested witness is someone who inherits something from the will. Interested witnesses can only inherit up to the amount they receive under intestacy laws. However, if there are two other disinterested witnesses, then the bequest remains valid.
- Notary: There is no requirement that the will needs notarization unless using a self-proving affidavit.
- Self-Proving Affidavit: Arkansas provides a form for a self-proving affidavit. This affidavit is a sworn statement the witnesses sign in front of a notary. The affidavit attaches to the will and used in probate court in place of witness testimony about the execution of the will.
Can I Disinherit My Spouse in Arkansas?
If you have been married more than a year at the time of your death, your spouse has a right to inherit from you in Arkansas. The statute gives your spouse the right to what they would have received if you died intestate.
Can I Disinherit My Children in Arkansas?
You can disinherit your child. However, under Arkansas state law, if the child was born or adopted after you executed the will, they may get what they would have received if you had died intestate. If the child is alive when you execute the will, and you do not mention them, they are called a “pretermitted child” and are entitled to what they would have received if you died intestate. The best way to disinherit a child in Arkansas is to specifically mention the child and state that you are disinheriting them.
What Estate Planning Documents Should I Have in Arkansas?
In addition to your will, you should prepare other important estate planning documents in Arkansas. These include:
- Power of Attorney. A power of attorney is a document that gives authority to a person you choose to handle your financial affairs if you are not able to do so yourself.
- Health Care Directive. With a health care directive or living will, you can select someone to access your medical records from your healthcare providers and make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself. You can also make your wishes known about live-prolonging treatment and end-of-life care.
Fortunately, making a valid will and creating other Arkansas estate planning documents is easy with online estate planning templates.