Dower, Curtesy, and Homestead Exemptions
Most people have little idea what dower and curtesy rights are and how they affect a person’s property interests.
Basically, per Ark. Code 28-11-301 & 305, dower or curtesy allow a surviving spouse to retain a one third interest in all the deceased spouse’s lands for his or her life, if the deceased had children (even grown children).
As we have seen from the article on how your property is distributed by law, dower and curtesy are used to prevent the surviving spouse from receiving nothing, while the children of the deceased receive the entire estate. The same applies to the personal property of the deceased. Except with personal property, the surviving spouse’s right to one-third of the deceased’s personal property is not just for life but absolute.
In Arkansas, homestead rights are state constitutional rights. These are not specific to estate planning but are important to understand as exceptions to intestate succession. The Arkansas Constitution, Article 9, Exemption, outlines the homestead exemptions. Section 3 explains that the homestead shall not be subject to the lien or decree of any court. There are numerous listed exceptions including liens rendered for purchase money, mechanics liens, taxes, as well as other specific examples.
Sections 4 and 5 outline the rural and urban exemptions.
Section 4 Rural Homestead – Acreage
Section 4 Rural Homestead – Acreage – Value states any homestead outside any city, town or village shall consist of up to one hundred and sixty acres of land, with improvements, selected by the owner.
However, there is a value limitation of twenty-five hundred dollars. Currently, that would almost surely prevent the protection of almost all the property but the provision also states that in no event shall the homestead be reduced to less than eighty acres, without regard to value.
Therefore, a rural homestead of up to eighty acres can be protected from some creditors.
Section 5 Urban Homestead – Acreage – Value
Section 5 Urban Homestead – Acreage – Value, states that the homestead in any city, town or village, owned and occupied as a residence, shall consist of “not exceeding one acre of land.”
Again, there is a value limitation of two thousand five hundred dollars. Also, like the rural exemption, in no event shall such homestead be reduced to less than one quarter of an acre of land, with the improvements selected by the owner, regardless of value. This again ensures that most, if not all, of a homestead is protected from some creditors.
You still need a will
While these and other statutory protections exist for families when a member passes away, they are no substitute for a well thought out and executed estate plan. Please contact us to set up an appointment where we can discuss your specific estate planning needs and possible solutions.
If you need assistance with your estate plan in Arkansas, please contact The Hardin Law Firm, PLC, or a licensed attorney in your state.
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Last updated: October 2, 2017 at 14:52 pm