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Many people believe that they don’t need a will. People state a variety of reasons as to why they think that their affairs will be handled, and their property will be distributed correctly without their guidance. Some people may state that their family will figure it out for them. Other people may believe that they don’t have enough property, assets, or money for anyone to fight over. Still, other people would just prefer to avoid thinking about the uncomfortable subject of end of life planning. Unfortunately, failing to engage in estate planning can have serious consequences for your loved ones. If you have not considered estate planning in drafting a will, working with a careful and meticulous Fayetteville wills lawyer can ensure that your property is distributed correctly and that your wishes are respected.
The Fayetteville lawyers of Gunn Kieklak Dennis, LLP possess decades of combined legal experience that they will utilize to help you with all your estate planning needs. To schedule a confidential consultation, call Gunn Kieklak Dennis, LLP at (479) 439-9840 or contact us online.
Drafting and Executing a Will in Arkansas
A will is a legal document that is used to distribute a person’s assets and personal property after they have passed away. Some people believe that drafting a will and other forms of estate planning is reserved for individuals that have reached a certain level of income or that possess a large amount of real estate and other assets. This is untrue; every person should engage in estate planning to efficiently pass on property to family members or other parties.
Most adults can execute a will in Arkansas. Specifically, Arkansas law permits any person that is 18 or older the right to draft a will. Aside from being an adult, the testator – the person making the will – must also have sufficient capacity. This means that he or she must possess a sound mind.
A person of sound mind comprehends the gravity of drafting a will and understands all the assets they own that can be distributed. While this sounds like it would be self-evident, people who wait until the ends of their lives, potentially when dementia and other conditions have compromised their faculties, increase the likelihood that their will is challenged successfully. That is why it is prudent to engage in estate planning as soon as possible.
Aside from the above characteristics, several other requirements must be met for the will to be valid. First, the will must be in writing. Oral wills are not valid in Arkansas. The individual creating the will must also sign the will. Furthermore, there must be a minimum of two witnesses who can attest to the fact that the testator signed the will. These witnesses must also sign the will after the testator has signed it.
Under certain circumstances, a handwritten will, also known as a holographic will, can be valid under Arkansas law. If a testator wants to draft a holographic will, the entire will must be in the testator’s handwriting. The handwriting and the signing of the will must also be observed by at least three credible and disinterested witnesses.
Can You Change Your Will?
Many people are hesitant to draft a will because they feel that there’s a certain sense of finality to drafting a document of this type. However, wills can be changed. However, you must be sure to modify the will according to Arkansas State law’s requirements so that your updated wishes are respected. Working with an experienced estate planning lawyer can increase the likelihood that this occurs.
A will that has not been altered properly will be invalidated, and an earlier copy of the testator’s will may be utilized instead. Alternatively, if a will was invalidated and a previous will drafted by the testator cannot be located, the testator may not have a valid will at the time of their death.
Consequences of Not Having a Will
If you do not have a will or have engaged in another form of estate planning, a number of negative consequences and circumstances can result. To start, you will be unable to appoint a trusted individual to act as the executor of your estate. The executor of your estate works to carry out your wishes faithfully and to comply with all of Arkansas’ estate administration laws. When you fail to appoint someone to act in this role, the court is often forced to substitute its judgment for your own.
It is important to note that some estates may not have to enter probate.
Furthermore, without expressing your wishes as to how your property should be distributed, you cannot control which loved ones gets certain property or assets. If you wanted a certain item or asset to go to a friend or unrelated individual, that typically will not occur. Likewise, if you wanted to donate assets to a nonprofit or charitable organization that wish is not likely to be honored without a valid will.
Rather, your assets will pass according to Arkansas state law. This is known as dying “intestate.” While the rules can get particularly complex, we can look at a few scenarios of what will occur should the laws of intestacy be invoked. For instance, if an individual who passes away is married for at least three years and there are no children, then the surviving spouse is entitled to the entire estate. However, in the same circumstances but when the marriage lasted for less than three years, the surviving spouse would only be entitled to half of the estate while the decedent’s parents, siblings and other relatives would divide the remaining half.
Arkansas intestacy law may take into account the special needs of a certain family member when distributing the property of a person that died without a will. As a result, if you intended that your property goes to a disabled member of your family, that may not occur. Additionally, if a person dies intestate and does not have immediate family members that would receive their property, the property may be given to a distant family member that the decedent had an attenuated relationship with.
Rely on The Experience of a Fayetteville, Arkansas Will Drafting and Planning Attorney
The attorneys of Gunn Kieklak Dennis, LLP are proud to serve Fayetteville and the surrounding towns and communities of Northwest Arkansas. We can help you draft the will and engage in other estate planning measures to ensure that your wishes are carried out even when you can no longer express them. To schedule a confidential consultation at our Fayetteville law offices directly off the Fulbright Expressway in Fayetteville, Arkansas call us at (479) 439-9840 today or contact us online.