Hyden, Miron & Foster, PLLC Law Blog

Monday, September 21, 2020

What Happens If You Pass Away Without a Will?

Estate planning can place critical protections in place for you and your loved ones. One of the most well-known parts of an estate plan is a will. A will, among other things, allows you to designate who will receive what assets when you die. Unfortunately, for one reason or another, people put off estate planning until it is too late. Should you pass away without a will in place, what will happen?

What happens if you pass away without a will?

If you pass away in Arkansas without a will, it is said that you have died “intestate.” In such a situation, state intestate laws will apply and distribute your estate accordingly as there is no will to direct how you would have wanted your assets distributed. It is important to note that state intestacy laws will only apply to assets that would have been distributed by your will. While this may include an extensive list of assets, there are many valuable assets that would pass outside of your will and the probate process. For instance, the following are examples of assets that pass outside of the probate process:

  • Property held in a living trust
  • Proceeds from life insurance policies
  • Retirement account funds
  • Securities with transfer on death designations
  • Bank accounts with payable on death designations
  • Property that is jointly held with rights of survivorship

This property automatically transfers to the designated beneficiary or co-owner upon a person’s death without the need for a will or applying state intestacy laws.

As to the assets that are subject to state intestacy laws when a person passes away without a will, the state intestacy laws of Arkansas will generally distribute a person’s assets according to who the surviving relatives are. Should a person pass away without a surviving spouse, but with surviving children, the children will inherit all the intestate property. If a person should pass away and be survived by a spouse of at least three years, but no children, then the spouse inherits everything. Other situations include:

  • If a person passes away that has a surviving spouse and children, the spouse gets 1/3 of real property as a life estate and 1/3 of the personal property. The children inherit all real property minus the life estate and 2/3 of the personal property.
  • If a person passes away and is survived by a spouse of fewer than three years, but no children, the spouse only inherits 50% of the intestate property and the remaining 50% goes to parents, siblings, or other relatives of the deceased, depending on who is still alive.
  • Should a person pass away with no surviving spouse or children, but surviving parents, the parents will inherit everything.

If a person passes away without a surviving spouse, surviving children, or surviving parents, then the assets go to increasingly distant levels of relatives. It all will depend on what relatives survive the deceased. Should a person pass away without any known surviving relatives, his or her assets are likely to escheat to the state.

Estate Planning Attorneys

A will empowers you to distribute your assets of great financial or sentimental value to people you care for. Do not miss the opportunity to take control of this important transfer. Establish a comprehensive estate plan that meets your unique needs today. The dedicated estate planning attorneys at Hyden, Miron & Foster are here for you. Contact us today.


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