The word “probate” comes from the Latin verb probare, which means “to try, test, prove, or examine.” (H/T to Wikipedia.)
This is important for two reasons. First, it illustrates that probate, much like Latin, is outdated and should never be your go-to solution. Also, the definition is spot-on: Probate will both try you and test your patience. Most people (justifiably) fail the test.
But what is it? Well, I am glad you asked. In the most simple terms, probate is asking a Court to allow someone else to do something with your stuff after you die. A quick example should help clarify: Leo has a bank account, a mortgage, and a car. While Leo is alive, he can do pretty much whatever he wants with his stuff. All he needs to do is sign. So, if he wants to close his bank account, all he has to do is sign. If he wants to sell his home or put someone else on the title, all he has to do is sign. Likewise, if he wants to put his new wife on the title to his car, he can do that through a signature.
Leo recently passed away in a boating accident. He can no longer sign his name to move his stuff around. If there’s no one who is authorized to do something with his stuff, it would probably just sit there until the rapture—perhaps longer. This is bad because we would rather see that money go toward creditors and college educations and other nice things that keep the economy strong. The Arkansas probate process makes sure that this doesn’t happen by appointing someone who has the authority to sign—again, the dead person can no longer sign. By doing this, the Court is giving that person permission to act like Leo and move stuff around.
There is much more to know about Arkansas probate, but everything else builds off that simple concept: Giving someone the authority to sign on behalf of a dead person.
But if you wanted to know more about the process itself or how to avoid it, then follow these links. Or you could just call us. The only thing worse than having to go through probate is having to go through it without a good Arkansas probate attorney.