Arkansas Law Blog

Estate Planning

Estate Planning: Newly Widowed

A new special feature in the law, portability, allows widows and widowers to add any unused exemptions of their most recently deceased spouse to their own personal exemption. This isn’t automatic. The executor of the deceased spouse’s estate must file a federal estate tax return, even if no tax is owed. The return is due within nine months after death,…

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Estate Planning

The 80/20 of Estate Planning

In 1906, Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto observed that 80% of the wealth in Italy at the time was held by 20% of the citizenry. Since that time, thought-leaders from various disciplines have picked up on the “Pareto principle,” or the 80/20 rule. The 80/20 rule is often reframed to clarify that we usually get 80% of the results from 20%…

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Estate Planning, Family Law

Estate Planning: Planning to Remarry

Before a remarriage you should discuss your estate plans. This changes from should to must when there are children from a previous relationship. Do you want to leave everything to the kids, or half to the kids and half to the new spouse? If you want to benefit both grown children and your current spouse, decide whether the kids should…

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Estate Planning, Family Law

Estate Planning: Headed for Divorce

The time between a separation and divorce is tricky from an estate-planning perspective. By law, spouses are entitled to inherit a minimum portion of each other’s assets, which is one-third in Arkansas. Unless they waive that right in a prenuptial agreement, it continues until the divorce is finalized. Some divorces are quick and uncontested. Some divorces can last for years…

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Family Law

Pet Custody: What is in Fido's Best Interest?

Unfortunately, couples facing divorce often fight over anything and everything they can. Even normally reasonable people can get sucked into vicious conflict about who-gets-what. In my experience, the parties may not even care about what they’re fighting about—they’re just looking to fight. Recall Billy Crystal’s famous rant about the wagon-wheel coffee table. You can normally break these fights into two…

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Estate Planning

Estate Planning: A Bun in the Oven

On The Parent Track If you’re a parent or about to become one it is time to get serious about planning. This is the case whether you’re married, single, or co-habitating, The first step is to sign a Will naming a guardian to raise your child. Couples should agree on the choice of guardian and each of their Wills appointing…

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Family Law

Willie Nelson on Divorce: Shock and Disbelief

For nearly sixty years, Willie Nelson has consistently produced some of the finest American music. He has also consistently been married, un-married, divorced, and remarried. In a 2010 interview with the UK’s Telegraph newspaper, Willie gave his view on his marriages: “Along the way you pick up wives and kids and you are responsible for them. You don’t discard them….

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Estate Planning

Estate Planning: Just Married

Married couples have more built-in protections than unmarried couples. For example, provided both are U.S. citizens, they can leave each other at death (or transfer to each other while alive) an unlimited amount of property without worrying about estate or gift taxes. And, if a couple has neither children nor wills, the surviving spouse can automatically inherit all of a…

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Interesting Legal-Lawyering Stories

Pro Bono: The Lawyer’s "Tithe"

I recently attended a mandatory event for newly licensed Arkansas attorneys. The event was built around professionalism—how to show it, how not to show it, and why it matters. Assuming that the amount of time you spend on something is related to its importance, the Arkansas Bar Association is clearly concerned about pro bono work and is making it a…

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Estate Planning

Estate Planning: In a Relationship

A growing number of unmarried couples in same-sex or heterosexual relationships are signing cohabitation agreements.  These cohabitation agreements cover how assets will be divided if they break up and sometimes include promises to provide for each other through an estate plan. The problem is most states do not have laws explicitly recognizing such agreements—meaning blood relatives could challenge the survivor’s…

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