In Arkansas, a resident can make a valid will if he's at least 18 years old and mentally competent. Arkansas law also requires a will to be written and attested by two witnesses. If an Arkansas resident dies without a will, his property passes to his surviving spouse and other heirs according to state law. These laws are called "laws of intestate succession." When someone dies without a will, he is said to have died "intestate."
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Dower and Curtesy
Arkansas recognizes the marital property rights known as "dower" and "curtesy": Dower is a wife's right to a share of her husband's property and curtesy is a husband's right to a share of his wife's property. If a married person dies without a will in Arkansas, the surviving spouse automatically receives a one-third interest in real estate for his or her lifetime -- known as a life estate -- if there are no children. Regarding assets other than land, if a decedent leaves a surviving spouse and no children, the surviving spouse receives all assets if the marriage lasted for three years or more.
In Arkansas, when a resident dies with no will, his children are entitled to part of his estate. For example, if a decedent has a surviving spouse and children, the children share a two-thirds interest in real estate equally while the surviving spouse receives a life estate in the remaining one-third. However, the children's two-thirds share in real estate is in fee simple, not a life estate. This means the children may leave their interests to someone of their choosing in a will, while the surviving spouse cannot.
Arkansas' intestacy laws dictate that the parents of a decedent receive a share of their child's assets. For example, if a decedent was married less than three years and has no children, his parents receive one-half of his personal property assets; parents are not entitled to a share of their children's personal property, however, if their child leaves a surviving spouse and was married for three years or more.
Arkansas' laws of intestate succession give a decedent's siblings a share in personal property under certain circumstances. For example, if a decedent has a surviving spouse, no children and no living parents, siblings receive the portion of assets that the parents would have received. In other words, if a decedent has a surviving spouse -- to whom he was married for less than three years -- no children and no living parents, his siblings receive one-half of personal property assets.
References & Resources
- Living Trust Network: Arkansas Requirements for a Will
- HG.org: Arkansas Intestacy Laws
- Perkins & Trotter, PLLC: Basic Arkansas Intestate Succession, Rights of Surviving Spouses and Related Curative Techniques for Lawyers and Landmen
- Kings River Title: Dower and Curtesy - What It Is and What It Does
- MyStateWill.com: Arkansas Intestacy Laws
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images