Arkansas Will and Testament Filing

By Beverly Bird

In Arkansas, as in most states, the probate process begins with filing the deceased’s will. It is a necessary first step before any payment of the deceased’s debts and distribution of his property to his beneficiaries can begin. The Circuit Court in the county where the testator lived when he passed away oversees probate. The court permits jury trials in the event of a dispute, and can punish anyone who doesn’t cooperate with the probate process with contempt of court.

Petition for Probate

The original will can be filed with Circuit Court by whoever has possession of it, though generally it's the person who is named as executor in the will. A Petition for Probate must accompany the will, along with a request to officially appoint the executor to assume the duties of probate. The petition includes the name, age, address, and place and date of death of the testator, and also lists her heirs. The person applying for probate must also give the court an estimate of the value of the property involved in the estate.

Admittance to Probate

If the court determines that the will is authentic and meets all state requirements, it issues an order officially admitting the will to probate and appointing the executor. The court clerk records the will and gives the executor documents confirming his role so he can act on behalf of the estate.

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When the will enters probate, the executor publishes a notice with the local newspaper notifying the public. Direct notice to some heirs, beneficiaries and creditors may also be required, depending on the nature of the deceased’s estate. Anyone who wants to object to or contest the will can then file a written statement with the Circuit Court explaining their grounds or the reason the will should not be honored as it was written.

Time Limits

The Petition for Probate must be filed with the court within five years of the date of the testator’s death. Objections must be filed within three months of the newspaper notice being published, or within 45 days if the person objecting received direct notice. An exception is if a more recent will has been located that takes precedence over the one entered into probate. In that case, the person in possession of the new will can object any time up until probate is completed.

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