Estate Planning

Estate Planning: Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, and avoiding probate.

Everyone needs an estate plan, regardless of net worth.  The growing demand for estate planning in today’s complex world has brought about many advances in the law and many new tools to properly manage your affairs. You can plan for your family’s future and protect them from the hassle and heartache of probate with a trust.  SH&A is dedicated to helping you properly plan for the future and protect your family.  Estate planning involves far more than simply having a will prepared. You have the power to plan for:

  • your finances and its administration;
  • your health care and its administration;
  • leaving gifts;
  • developing a gift-planning strategy;
  • limiting tax liability;
  • avoiding needless delay; and
  • generally limiting your family’s burden in the aftermath of your passing.

You can:

  • protect your assets;
  • avoid probate;
  • maintain privacy;
  • reduce taxes and fees your estate will owe; and
  • provide yourself with the assurance that you are caring for your family in the best way possible.

It’s important to let them know you cared enough to plan ahead. 

Our attorneys will implement a series of legal documents that allow you to make critical decisions about your health-care, family, finances, assets and the proper management of your affairs in order for these goals to be met. Your estate plan will be individually tailored to your goals and desires.  Additionally, our skill, education and training in taxation and estate planning will protect your estate from avoidable probate fees and taxes.


WHAT IS ESTATE PLANNING?  Estate Planning is the process by which people determine the management of assets during life, incapacitation and death; distribution of assets during life, incapacitation and death; management of health and personal care decisions; and appointment of care for heirs.  The Estate Planning process involves much more than a simple will.  Several documents are used to accomplish your goals.  The principal instruments include wills, revocable and irrevocable trusts, durable and limited powers of attorney and health care directives such as living wills.  Often, gifting strategies are incorporated into your plan and your business models are coordinated into a consistent strategy to further achieve your estate planning goals.

WHAT IS MY ESTATE?  Your “Estate” is the entirety of assets and interests you own at the time of your passing.  These assets can be any type of property, real or personal, and may even include partial property interests.  The value of your estate is the fair market value of assets within the estate, minus liabilities.  The fair market value of any asset is the price at which a willing buyer would purchase it from a willing seller, with both parties on equal footing having no extra compulsion to buy or sell.  The value of your estate will determine the amount of estate taxes owed upon your death.

THE BENEFITS OF ESTATE PLANNING. There are many benefits that make estate planning a worthwhile endeavor. You may distribute property to the people or entities of your choice, place protective restraints on property or money you leave behind and reduce the legal burdens of death on your surviving family.  Additionally, you can protect more money for your heirs and beneficiaries from fees and taxes and the legal proceedings involved after death will be resolved more quickly, efficiently and privately.  You can prepare documents to make sensitive, personal medical decisions for yourself before they occur, so your family does not have to try to make them for you during a difficult time.  These are just a few of the benefits of estate planning.

THE RISKS OF NO ESTATE PLANNING. Without an estate plan, many consequential situations will arise that most people would not wish for. Without proper planning, the State of Arkansas will direct the distribution of your estate.  The State could even take your property,  because your estate will become property of your county if certain conditions are not met.  Also, without planning, the disposition of your assets will be a matter of public record, will involve months and often years to complete and its value will be reduced by costly and avoidable fees.  There are also other consequences that may affect your health and personal care.

WHAT IS PROBATE?  Probate is the court-supervised distribution of the assets of an estate.  The proceedings are open to the public (everyone knows your family’s business), cost your family time and money and can be avoided with estate planning.  There are many fees involved with probate.  A personal representative is appointed to manage the assets during the probate process, and his or her compensation is determined based on a percentage of the deceased’s estate.  An attorney is  normally hired for the necessary legal help.  Additionally, there are filing, publication and other fees.  Proper planning can reduce or eliminate a large portion of these fees.  Below you will see a simple example that illustrates the expense associated with your estate being processed through the probate system.  In this example, the probate fees associated with a $200,000 estate are shown.  Keep in mind, the larger your estate, the higher the fees.  To keep it simple, the estate in this example only possesses personal property.  When real estate is involved, the probate fees increase even more.

An Illustration of Probate Fees ($200,000 Estate)

Probate Fees / No Planning Fees / With Planning
Filing Fees: $165 $0
Publication Fees: $200 $200
Representative Fees: $6,150 $0
Attorney Fees: $6,050 $1,500 – $2,500
Totals: $12,565 $2,000