When an Arkansas resident dies and a will is left that the resident executed, it must go through a legal process known as probate. Probate allows the estate to be inventoried, claims submitted and paid, and the remaining assets to be passed down to beneficiaries under the supervision of the probate court. A personal representative must be appointed to begin and oversee the probate process. The decedent's (person who died) will generally indicates who he wants to serve as the personal representative, but anyone over the age of 21 may apply.
Obtain a copy of the death certificate for the decedent and the original will. A death certificate may be obtained from the Arkansas Department of Heath. (See Resources.)
Prepare the documents needed to begin the probate. All forms can be accessed on the Arkansas Judiciary website. (See Resources.) The forms required may vary somewhat depending on the circumstances, but all probate cases require the Civil-Probate Cover Sheet and the Petition for Probate of Will and Appointment of Personal Representative. The forms may be downloaded and completed or you may request copies from the local probate court if you do not have access to a printer.
Request that the witnesses to the decedent's will complete and sign the Proof of Will forms if the decedent left a will. File the forms with the court along with the petition to probate the estate.
Inventory the estate. Arkansas law requires that an inventory be conducted by the personal representative within 60 days after appointment as the personal representative. The inventory must include a list of all property owned by the decedent at the time of death along with a detailed description and appraised value. Property includes real property and both tangible and intangible personal property. The inventory must be submitted to the court when complete.
Publish notice of the probate of the estate in the local newspaper. Notice must be published to give any creditor's of the estate the opportunity to file a claim with the probate court. The notice is published one per week for two consecutive weeks. Actual notice must also be given to each known creditor of the estate by mailing a copy of the notice within 30 days of publication.
Pay the claims of the estate. The personal representative is responsible for approving or denying claims. If a claim is approved, then it is paid out of the estate. If a claim is denied, then the court will order a hearing on the claim.
Submit a final accounting to the court. Once all the assets are inventoried and claims paid, the personal representative must submit a final accounting to the court. At this time, the remaining assets will be distributed to the beneficiaries of the estate.