One of the most common duties of general practice attorneys in Newport AR, or any other place, is assisting clients with the preparation of wills and trusts. These are legal instruments that allow a person to determine where their property will go upon their death. To understand why you might need or want to devise a will or a trust for your property, it may be helpful to consider what would happen to your property if you passed without a will or a trust.
In Arkansas, if you pass away without a will or a trust, your assets will go to your nearest relatives according to the laws of “intestate succession.” This means that, after your widow (if any) and creditors take a large portion, your assets and property (your “estate”) will pass in roughly the following manner:
- To your surviving children in equal shares. If one of your children passes away before you, and that child had children (your grandchildren), the share that would have gone to the deceased child passes to the grandchildren to divide equally.
- If there are no surviving children or descendants of children, your widow will take your entire estate.
- If there are no surviving children or descendants of children, and there is no widow, your parents will take your entire estate.
- If there are no surviving descendants, widows, or parents, your brothers and sisters (or their descendants) will take your entire estate.
- If there are no surviving descendants, widows, parents, or siblings or descendants of siblings, your grandparents, aunts and uncles, or their surviving descendants, will take your entire estate.
- If there are none of the above, your surviving great grandparents, great aunts, and great uncles, or their surviving descendants, will take the entire estate.
- If there are none of the above, but you have a surviving spouse who you were married to for less than three years (and did not include in a will), then that surviving spouse or her surviving descendants will take your entire estate.
- Finally, if none of the above exists, your entire estate will go to the county that you resided in at the time of death.
The laws of intestate succession were designed with general fairness in mind and do not take into consideration the deceased’s individual wishes. For that, you need a will. Moreover, if you acquire unique property after the creation of a will, and that property is not allocated according to that will or any other instrument (such as a trust), then that property will pass according to the laws of intestate succession. Therefore, if you have specific ideas about how you would like to leave any or all of your property upon your death, call an experienced lawyer in Northeast Arkansas today for help planning your estate.
***DISCLAIMER*** The laws of intestate succession described above are written here casually for the purposes of this blog post only and should not be relied upon as a primary source. As with any sensitive legal matter, you should seek the advice of a licensed attorney before making decisions about your estate.