As an appointed personal representative, it is your job to help the estate pass through the probate process. However, the personal representative is responsible for overseeing this process and might determine that help is needed from an Arkansas personal representative lawyer. Administration through the probate court is often required when someone passes away, whether or not the individual in question had a will. In Arkansas, probate matters are handled by the circuit court. AR Code § 28-40-102. The rules related to the appointment of a persona representative in Arkansas and their duties and responsibilities are found in AR Code § 28-40-101 et seq.
Understanding Probate and Personal Representative Processes
Administration of an Arkansas estate is required to collect the assets and property, protect that property, pay any taxes and debts that are owed, and to determine who is entitled to share of the estate so that they can be distributed to appropriate parties. The personal representative is the individual who is responsible for settling the estate. This individual is usually named as part of the last will and testament written by the deceased. Where no will exists the court still must put someone into this role and will instead hold proceedings to determine the priority order in which potential representatives could be named. Anyone who is named as a personal representative does have the right to decline this appointment if they do not feel comfortable in set role. It can be beneficial to speak with an Arkansas personal representative lawyer first to decide the potential complexity of the estate in making your decision. A surviving spouse in Arkansas usually has first priority followed by any surviving children. If there is no child or spouse, then any other qualified person can be chosen by the court. Only certain people are eligible to get appointed into this role, including those over age 21 who are able to obtain a surety bond and are of sound mind. Certain trusts and bank companies can also serve as personal representatives but they must also be residents of Arkansas unless they have also appointed someone to take service of process in that Arkansas county. Because of the size of typical estates, the personal representative is usually in control of substantial funds and property, meaning that a bond is posted to secure the appropriate performance.
Understanding Personal Representative Duties
The personal representative is expected to be impartial in dealing with all beneficiaries and interested parties in the estate. They start by taking possession of the property and then distributing it accordingly either based on laws of intestate succession or the will. This usually begins when the court provides letters of administration or letters testamentary at which point the personal representative then gives a copy of the will and death certificate to the probate court. The first step of probate is for an inventory of the property in the estate to be created as well as a list of liabilities. This inventory needs to be filed within 60 days once the personal representative in Arkansas has been appointed and it is also possible that they will need to get an appraisal completed during this time to verify the value of that property. After valid creditors have been notified and determined, debts need to be paid from the estate’s funds in addition to funeral expenses. Remaining assets are then distributed to beneficiaries after creditors and tax obligations are managed. Keeping accurate records of all these transactions is just one of the many responsibilities of an Arkansas personal representative and it is why someone with a background in financial management, record keeping or organization is often recommended to serve in this role.
It is not easy to predict how long estate administration for any Arkansas estate might take. There are a variety of factors that could delay the administration of probate. In all of these circumstances, retaining legal counsel at the outset helps decrease the possibility of confusion or mistakes.