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Opening a Probate for a Personal Injury, Mass Tort, or Other Lawsuit in Arkansas

We have all heard it and it is true, bad things happen to good people. Sometimes, those things involve a lawsuit after someone has passed away. When that happens there is a specific type of probate called a special administration. This type of probate is used to deal with one specific issue and not the entire estate.

What is a Special Administrator?

The most basic definition of a special administrator is someone who is appointed by the court to perform a specific set of actions on behalf of the estate of someone who has passed away. A special administrator is usually appointed when prompt action is necessary to protect and preserve a decedent’s rights or assets before an estate executor can be appointed or if an estate executor is unable to do these specific actions themselves.

When and Why do I need a Special Administrator?

The appointment of a special administrator can happen at any time after the passing of the decedent and before or after the appointment of an estate executor or general administrator of an estate. The appointment may be for a specified time, to perform duties respecting specific property, or to perform particular acts. The requirements and duties for the special administrator are outlined in the order from the court appointing them to act as special administrator.

The appointment of a special administrator may be needed to move a probate estate forward, to pursue a wrongful death claim, to pursue a life insurance claim, or to pursue some other civil claim on behalf of someone who has passed away. Another situation that may arise requiring the appointment of a special administrator is when someone passes away and there is no family or other interested party left to serve that is suitable to act as administrator of the estate. In some cases, a special administrator may even be appointed if there is a will contest and the parties cannot agree on who should be appointed as the estate executor.

There are also situations that may arise requiring a very specific type of special administrator to deal with certain estate assets. For example, let’s say John passes away and he owned a large amount of very valuable antique cars. You and our family do not actually know anything about antique cars or their value, but you want to sell them and not get ripped off. In this case, the court could appoint a special administrator who is an antique car dealer that can help you manage the car collection and deal with potential buyers. This type of appointment would be just for these specific actions and would end after the assets are sold.

The laws for the appointment of a special administrator are intentionally broad so that this process can be used in the way that is the most beneficial to the estate of the decedent and for protecting the rights of the decedent and heirs.

Who will be the Special Administrator?

Typically, the special administrator will be the surviving spouse, adult child, or another close family member of the decedent. If there is no family or the terms of the will leave property to a specific person or entity, then any other interested person or person entitled to a share of the estate may petition to be appointed so long as they are qualified. In the case of specific property, any suitable person may be appointed as long as they have experience and expertise in the related field. Generally, to be appointed as special administrator you must be 21 years old or older, be of sound mind, and not be a convicted and unpardoned felon. In Arkansas, a court may appoint a non-resident as a special administrator and the order appointing the special administrator is not appealable.

Duties of a Special Administrator:

The specific duties of the special administrator will be broadly defined in the court’s order of appointment. From there, Arkansas law says that the general laws that apply to personal representatives of an estate also apply to a special administrator. This means that a special administrator has a fiduciary duty to act fairly and for the best interests of the estate. This includes dealing with and acting fairly toward the heirs and beneficiaries of the estate as well.

The special administrator may initiate, maintain, or defend any court actions and be the party in interest who is involved in lawsuits on behalf of the estate. Other duties may include collecting and preserving assets of the estate, managing income of the estate, or any other acts specifically authorized in the order of appointment. The special administrator may also be charged with dealing with creditors in some situations. This may sound intimidating, but do not worry, a special administrator is not directly liable to any creditors of the estate or personally liable for any claims against the estate of the decedent.

Why us?

Our firm is experienced in handling probate and civil cases and assisting out-of-state heirs or law firms to ensure their needs are met.  We can help get this process started and connect you with the best persons or entities to get the job done. If you need an experienced Arkansas attorney to file for a special administrator for your probate or civil case, give us a call today for a free consultation.