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In this post, I discuss small estate probate in Arkansas, a streamlined probate process that bypasses some of the normal probate headaches.
small estate probate

Photo by Dennis Jarvis is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. This content uses referral links. 

Probate is an oft-feared legal process, evidence by the popularity of probate avoidance strategies, such as the living trust. Probate can indeed be a time-consuming and expensive process, and so probate avoidance strategies are often very useful and serve their purpose well. As I mentioned in my living trust post, however, probate may not be so scary for small estates in Arkansas. In fact, the process can be pretty straightforward.

Requirements for Small Estate Probate

Arkansas provides for a separate probate process—really a lack therefore—for smaller estates. In Arkansas, estates valued under $100,000, excluding the homestead, do not have to go through the traditional probate process.

Abbreviated Process

To take advantage of the abbreviated small estate probate process, an affidavit, indicating that the requirements to take advantage of the small estate probate process have been met, must be filed with the clerk of the probate court. This affidavit must not be filed until 45 days from the death of the individual in question have elapsed.

The affidavit should include a statement stating that there are no outstanding claims against the decedent and should provide an itemized description of all of the property in the estate. The affidavit should also include the names and addresses of everyone who has possession of any applicable personal property and who resides on any applicable real estate. Finally, the affidavit should include the name and addresses of any individuals who should receive the property along with their relationship to the decedent.

Small estates are still eligible to go through the normal probate process. Therefore, to take advantage of small estate probate, traditional probate cannot have already started.

This process for smaller estates is generally much less expensive and time-consuming than the traditional probate process. So, for those with estates that will qualify for the small estate probate process, the extra expense required to implement probate avoidance strategies may not be worth it—unless, of course, privacy is a matter of tremendous concern.

As an important note, however, the small estate probate process comes with a very significant disadvantage: the inability to take advantage of the nonclaim statute. So, if the pursuit of creditors is a concern, the small estate process may not be the best option.

Importance of a Will

The availability of small estate probate does not mean small estates do not need a will. In fact, the provisions of a will will still be followed through this process, so the same advantages of having a will still apply. As discussed in a previous post, a will is necessary to ensure that your surviving spouse inherits if you have children. Even if you don’t have much, your spouse will probably still want to inherit the little you have.

In addition, a will is a good way to name a guardian for your minor children. Parents dying without a will can create significant issues for surviving children. No matter how small your estate, this is probably the most important reason to write a will.

See Also:

The Arkansas Probate Process

Probate Public Notice and the Nonclaim Statute

1 Comment

Alan · February 17, 2017 at 10:09 pm

Question , Will a form 23 also known as an Affidavit for collection of small estate satisfy a title company enough to underwrite a title policy or do we still need to go thru probate? We have already filed heirship papers last year but title company says that is inadequate to qualify for a clean title policy.We have no will at all. And financially the value falls very short of the 100k property owned maximum.

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