Estate Planning FAQ

Answers to your Arkansas estate planning questions.

What is estate planning?

Estate planning is legally documenting what you would like to happen when 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 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 your intent. There are even some cases where it can cause a rift in your family in which they 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 measure possible 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?

When you start acquiring assets, it is a good time to start estate planning because you never know what is going to happen. If you have family members that you want to provide for and you begin to acquire assets, that is always a key time to start estate planning. Also, anytime your family dynamics change, like a new baby or new spouse, this is another opportunity to start or update your estate plan.

I would encourage people to work on their living will even as early as your 30s. It is never too early to start estate planning and, thereafter, it needs to be checked 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 you have to go through a 6 to 12 month process to get your assets distributed to whomever you’ve named. Trusts avoid the probate process, saving a lot of time and money.

Probate FAQ

Should I choose a will or a trust?

If you own real property, like a house or land, you need a trust. Everything else can generally be dealt with by either a beneficiary designation, living will, or possibly a small estate probate.

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

How do I create a will or a trust?

Seek an attorney with experience 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 that their holographic will is witnessed by someone who does have an interest. This can cause the distribution of your assets to not turn out the way you intended.

Learn more about wills and trusts

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

Pre-plan so your heirs get the maximum benefit from your estate! Knowing all of your assets can help get those assets in order to have them placed into a trust. Then you can leave explicit directions of exactly who gets what without it having to be probated.

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