The State’s Plan for Your Stuff
With the State’s impersonal plan, if you don’t have a Will or Trust, who does your stuff go to? Most, if not all states have already decided that for you and how much they get.
Their plan is called “intestate succession” or sometimes “estate administration.” Most people just call it Probate.
It is like Probate, but with more steps and complicated steps with every step completed in the proper order. The court oversees every step much more closely than if there was a Will or a Trust.
The attorney can ask for about 3% of your GROSS estate. The executor can ask for another 3% of your GROSS estate. Your gross estate is the value of all property without subtracting out what is owed on it. For example, if you have a $250,000 house and owe $240,000 the lawyer gets 3% of $250,000 ($7,500) and the executor gets another 3% ($7,500) minimum. If there is litigation involved, those numbers rapidly rise.
In Arkansas, your spouse will get 1/3rd of all your “personal” (that is not real estate) property and a 1/3 interest in a “life estate” in your real estate. Your children get a share per child of the remaining personal property and a share each of the real estate subject to your spouse’s “life estate.
Just about anything that needs to be done to manage your final estate will require the court’s permission.
If anything needs to be sold, even just for an estate sale, you must ask the court for permission.
Accountings and inventories are due on the assets of the estate and become part of the public record. This exposes your loved ones to a loss of privacy and influence of outsiders.
Your and your family’s private affairs will be open to public scrutiny. It goes beyond just publishing the fact of your probate in the newspaper. It can also expose your family to crimes of opportunity. Con artists, creditors, overly aggressive sales people, and people eager to exploit financial weakness routinely look at the Probate records. There might not be a bad reason, but on the other hand they may be looking to exploit your family and loved ones.