If you die without a will in Arkansas, your assets will go to your closest relatives under state "intestate succession" laws. Here are some details about how intestate succession works in Arkansas.
Only assets that pass through probate are affected by intestate succession laws. Many valuable assets don't go through probate, and therefore aren't affected by intestate succession laws. Here are some examples:
These assets will pass to the surviving co-owner or to the beneficiary you named, whether or not you have a will. However, if you don't have a will and none of the named beneficiaries are alive to take the property, then the property could end up being transferred according to intestate succession.
Under intestate succession, who gets what depends on whether or not you have living children, parents, or other close relatives when you die. Here's a quick overview:
If you die with:
here's what happens:
|children or other descendants but no spouse||children and descendants inherit all intestate property|
|spouse of at least three years, no children||spouse inherits everything|
|spouse and children||spouse gets 1/3 of real property in the form of a life estate and 1/3 of the personal property
children inherit all of the real property less the life estate and 2/3 of the personal property.
|spouse of less than three years, no children||spouse inherits 50% of intestate property
parents, siblings, or other relatives inherit remaining 50% of intestate property
|parents but no children or spouse||parents inherit everything|
|siblings but no children, spouse, or parents||siblings inherit everything|
In Arkansas, whether or not you have a will when you die, your spouse will inherit property from you under a doctrine called "dower and curtesy." Briefly, this is how it works:
If you have children or other descendants. Your spouse has the right to use, for life, 1/3 of your real estate. After you die, your children or other descendants inherit the property outright. In addition, your spouse inherits 1/3 of your personal property outright.
If you don't have children or other descendants. In most cases, your spouse freely inherits 1/2 of your real estate and 1/2 of your personal property.
In addition to the protections of dower and curtesy, if you are married and you die without a will, your spouse may receive some of your intestate property. (Remember, that's only the property that would have passed under a will if you had made one, and not in any other way—for example by dower and curtesy or any of the other methods mentioned at the beginning of this article.) How much your spouse inherits depends on whether or not you have living children or other descendants, and on how long you were married.
If you have children or other descendants. If you have children, grandchildren, or great grandchildren, they will inherit all of your intestate property.
If you were married at least three years. If you were married for at least three years and you have no descendants, your spouse inherits all of your intestate property.
If you were married less than three years. If you were married for less than three years, your spouse inherits 50% of your intestate property. The rest goes to other surviving relatives in the order established by Arkansas law.
These rules can quickly become complicated. Following is a simple example of how they might work.
Example: Paul and Joan were married for seven years, and Paul has two children from a previous marriage. Paul and Joan own a house in joint tenancy. Paul also owns a substantial amount of personal property, including several boats and some very valuable antiques. When Paul dies without a will, the house passes automatically to Joan. In addition, she inherits 1/3 of Paul's personal property under the rules of dower and curtesy. The remaining 2/3 of Paul's personal property passes to his kids.
If you have any concerns about this area of the law, see an experienced attorney for help.
If you die without a will in Arkansas, your children will receive an "intestate share" of your property. The size of each child's share depends on how many children you have and whether or not you are married. (See the table above.)
For children to inherit from you under the laws of intestacy, the state of Arkansas must consider them your children, legally. For many families, this is not a confusing issue. But it's not always clear. Here are some things to keep in mind.
This can be a tricky area of the law, so if you have questions about your relationship to your parent or child, get help from an experienced attorney.
If you die without a will and don't have any family, your property will "escheat" into the state's coffers. However, this very rarely happens because the laws are designed to get your property to anyone who was even remotely related to you. For example, your property won't go to the state if you leave a spouse, children, siblings, parents, grandparents, great grandparents, aunts or uncles, great uncles or aunts, nieces or nephews, cousins of any degree, or the children, parents, or siblings of a spouse who dies before you do. (Arkansas Code § § 28-9-214 and 28-9-215.)
Here are a few other things to know about Arkansas intestacy laws.
Here are a few more resources to explore: