A will can be revised by:
Making minor changes in what’s called a codicil, a formal amendment to the will.
Preparing an entirely new will revoking the prior will.
Independent events such as divorce or adoption. State laws vary as to the effect these events may have on the validity of your will. Although making a will is a sobering experience, your loved ones and friends will thank you for being so organized and thoughtful ahead of time.
There are procedures set up to handle the settlement of small estates, or even larger uncomplicated ones. In Arkansas, an Affidavit for Collection of Small Estates is used. Your attorney will discuss this option with you.
Details of the probate process vary greatly depending upon the facts and circumstances of each decedent. However, the process usually goes as follows:
Usually, the first step is taken by the executor – the person named by the decedent in his or her will to process the estate – or another interested person who has the original will. This person files a “Petition for Probate of Will and Appointment of Executor” or something similar.
If there is no will, somebody must come forward and ask the court to be appointed as administrator instead of an executor. Most often, this is the surviving spouse or an adult child, although it might also be another interested person. The probate estate simply refers to any property that is subject to the authority of the probate court. Assets disposed of outside the probate process are part of the non-probate estate.
After the court decides that the will is genuine and valid, the court issues an order “admitting the will to probate” or some similar proclamation. The Clerk then records the will. Arkansas law then requires public notice of the probate proceeding by the publication of newspaper ads.
Occasionally, however, there might be an objection. For example, somebody might claim that the document being offered to the court is actually a forgery. Or, more commonly, someone claims that the document being objected to was revoked in a later Will. Whatever the objection or claim, it must be brought to the judge’s attention.
The judge’s order also formally appoints an executor. This appointment gives him or her full authority to handle the decedent’s accounts. The Executor is given a certified court document that will be recognized by financial institutions and others, often called Letters of Administration or Letters Testamentary.
A will is a public record, and so is the final settlement and inventory of estate property. As such, these papers may be viewed by anyone.
An executor or administrator:
Collects, inventories and appraises all assets that are subject to probate
- Pays taxes and creditors
- Pays funeral expenses
- Pays the costs of administration, such as for a lawyer and appraisers
Formally transfers the estate property according to the will, or by the state laws of “intestate succession” if there is no will
What remains of the estate after these payments are made is available for distribution to heirs and beneficiaries.