Most people know that they should have a will, but many don't know what a will is and how it works.
Here’s a quick checklist for making a will in Arkansas:
A will, also called a "last will and testament," can help you protect your family and your property. You can use a will to:
In Arkansas, if you die without a will, your property will be distributed according to state "intestacy" laws. Arkansas's intestacy law gives your property to your closest relatives, beginning with your spouse and children. If you have neither a spouse nor children, your grandchildren or your parents will get your property. This list continues with increasingly distant relatives, including siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and your spouse's relatives. If the court exhausts this list to find that you have no living relatives by blood or marriage, the state will take your property.
No. You can make your own will in Arkansas, using Nolo's Quicken WillMaker & Trust. However, you may want to consult a lawyer in some situations. For example, if you think that your will might be contested or if you want to disinherit your spouse, you should talk with an attorney. Nolo's will-making products tell you when it's wise to seek a lawyer's advice.
You must make your will on paper, not on audio, video, or any other digital file. (Although, see “Can I Make a Digital or Electronic Will?,” below.) Type and print your will using a computer or typewriter. Arkansas does permit handwritten wills (Ark. Code Ann. § 28-25-104), but they are usually not a good idea.
To finalize your will in Arkansas, you must:
Your witnesses should be “disinterested,” meaning that you have not given them anything in the will. If an “interested” witness signs the will, the witness could lose the gifts you left to them through the will. Ark. Code Ann. § 28-25-102.
Holographic (handwritten) wills in Arkansas do not require witnesses to see you sign your will. However, the entire body of the will and your signature must be in your handwriting, and three credible, disinterested witnesses must be able to establish that it is your handwriting and signature. Ark. Code Ann. § 28-25-104.
No, in Arkansas, you do not need to notarize your will to make it legal.
However, Arkansas allows you to make your will "self-proving" and you'll need to go to a notary if you want to do that. A self-proving will speeds up probate because the court can accept the will without contacting the witnesses who signed it.
To make your will self-proving, you and your witnesses will go to the notary and sign an affidavit that proves who you are and that each of you knew you were signing the will. Ark. Code Ann. § 28-25-106.
Yes. In Arkansas, you can use your will to name an executor who will ensure that the provisions in your will are carried out after your death. Nolo's Quicken WillMaker & Trust produces a letter to your executor that generally explains what the job requires. If you don't name an executor, the probate court will appoint someone to take on the job of winding up your estate.
In Arkansas, you may revoke or change your will at any time. You revoke your will by:
If you and your spouse divorce or your marriage is annulled, all provisions in favor of your spouse are automatically revoked. Ark. Code Ann. § 28-25-109.
If you need to make changes to your will, it’s best to revoke it and make a new one. However, if you have only very simple changes to make, you could add an amendment to your existing will -- this is called a codicil. In either case, you will need to finalize your changes with the same formalities you used to make your original will (see above).
In a few states, you can make a legal will digitally – that is, you can make the will, sign it, and have it witnessed without ever printing it out. Although such electronic wills are currently available in only a minority of states, many other states are considering making electronic wills legal. It is generally assumed that most states will allow them in the near future. While Arkansas has a "Uniform Electronic Transaction Act" that recognizes electronic signatures as valid, it expressly states that this does not apply to the creation of wills, codicils, or testamentary trusts. (See Ark. Code Ann. § 25-32-103.)
You can find Arkansas’ laws about making wills here: Arkansas Code Annotated Title 28 Wills, Estates, and Fiduciary Relationships Subtitle 3 Wills.