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Dying without an estate plan can leave already grieving loved ones with more woes down the line. When Arkansas residents take the time for estate planning, they are essentially giving their family members a gift. Dying without having anything in place, including a will — or dying intestate — means that the state will, in effect, create a will for the deceased person. So, not having proper documents in place is not conducive to having the true last wishes of the deceased carried out.

The 1990 Uniform Probate Code, which is mandated by each state individually, indicates that close, rather than distant relatives be given the opportunity to the assets first. To put things into perspective, that means surviving spouse first, followed by children and grandchildren, parents and then down the line like siblings, nieces and nephews, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and so on. Adopted children — and all adopted descendants — are treated like biological relatives.

If there are absolutely no claimants to the assets, they go to the state. The Uniform Probate Code states that the surviving spouse gets the whole estate after taxes and expenses are paid or the major portion of it. If there is no surviving spouse, descendants get the assets by what is called right of representation.

The law can be a challenge to understand. Arkansas residents thinking about estate planning issues might wish to get clarification on these details from an attorney with estate planning experience. The consequences of dying without a will may be avoided with the advice of a prudent lawyer who knows the in’s and out’s of estate planning documents.