Estate Planning FAQ

Answers to your Arkansas estate planning FAQs.

What is estate planning?

Estate planning is the process of legally documenting what you would like to happen in the event that you become incapacitated or after you have passed away.

Why do I need an estate plan?

If you don’t have an estate plan and you pass away, your assets will be distributed according to the intestate statutes of Arkansas, and that may not coincide with your intent.

Alternatively, if you don’t have an estate plan and you become incapacitated, you might not be able to choose what type of care you want. If you are unable to choose the type of care you want, family members or even close personal friends may be asked to make those decisions for you, which also may not be according to your intent. There are times when family members disagree and need to resort to litigation if they can’t decide amongst themselves—which is never ideal.

You need an estate plan in order to make sure your wishes are granted the way you want after you become incapacitated or pass away.

What things should I consider in my estate plan?

If you were to become incapacitated, ask yourself:

  • Who do I trust to have control over my assets when I can’t say?
  • Who do I think will adhere to all of my wishes?
  • Who do I want to care for me?
  • What kind of healthcare do I want if I become incapacitated?
  • Do I want food, hydration, and nutrition?
  • Do I want painkillers?
  • Do I want every medical measure possible taken to keep me alive?

If you were to pass away, ask yourself:

  • Who do I think would be trustworthy to manage my estate after I pass according to how I have instructed?
  • Of my assets, who gets what?
  • Do I want a revocable or irrevocable trust?

At what point should an estate plan be made?

We never know what’s going to happen in the future. If you have family members who you want to provide for and you begin to acquire assets, it is a key time to start estate planning. Also, any time your family dynamics change, such as the addition of a new baby or new spouse, this is another opportunity to start or update your estate plan.

We encourage people to work on their living will even as early as their 30s. It is never too early to start estate planning. A good rule of thumb is that the plan should be revisited and revised about every five years.

What is the difference between a will and a trust?

A last will and testament is a written instruction on how you want your estate assets dispersed. So is a trust. The difference is that a trust is its own living being—it’s like its own person.

Even if you have a will, it will have to be probated, which means your beneficiaries have to go through a six- to 12-month process to distribute assets. Trusts avoid the probate process, saving a lot of time and money.

Should I choose a will or a trust?

If you own real property, like a house or land, you need estate planning in the form of a trust. Everything else can generally be dealt with through a beneficiary designation, a living will, or possibly a small estate probate.

Retirement accounts, bank accounts, and stocks can already have beneficiary designations. If you name a beneficiary designation with your financial company, those assets can pass to whomever you designate outside of probate.

How do I create a will or a trust?

Seek an experienced estate planning attorney to help with formation of a will or trust. There are numerous statutes that can cause missteps. For example, a holographic will is a handwritten will, and there are statutory requirements that require it to be witnessed by two disinterested people. Many times, people make the mistake of asking witnesses with an interest in their estates (i.e. they are beneficiaries) to sign their holographic wills. This can cause problems with the distribution of your assets.

Learn more about wills and trusts

What can I do to ensure that my heirs get the maximum benefit from my estate?

The key to your heirs getting the maximum benefit of your estate is to pre-plan! Seek the help of a qualified estate planning attorney to protect your rights and your assets. Also, knowing all of your assets to place into a trust is important. Leave explicit directions of exactly who gets what—without it having to be probated.