Probate Attorneys For Families in Topeka, Kansas
When you lose a loved one, even if the estate has been planned carefully, probating and administering it can present roadblocks that grieving loved ones could do without.
Our Topeka estate planning lawyers can help you settle your loved one’s estate and distribute your inheritance with the confidence that you’ve covered all the legal aspects of estate administration before you get started.
What is probate in Kansas?
Probate is a legal process whereby the Kansas courts — usually a court in a county where the deceased owned property — approves a will after the testator (the person who made the will) dies.
Generally speaking, the executor named in the will is unable to start administering the estate (paying estate debts and distributing the property remaining at the time of death) until probate has been completed.
Some property can automatically pass to others without probate, such as anything held in joint tenancy, life insurance proceeds and retirement plans payable to a named beneficiary. However, all other property must pass through probate.
Probate should be viewed as a necessary legal step that protects the executor, the estate, and the institutions holding the assets from actions that could be challenged legally.
What is involved in probate in Kansas?
Usually, an executor is named in a will as the person who must manage the estate assets.
The duties of the executor include notifying heirs and creditors of the probate proceedings, taking possession of inventory and preserving the probate assets of the deceased, managing debts, transferring assets to beneficiaries, and providing accounts.
The executor is personally responsible for handling and settling the estate according to the deceased’s final wishes. To do this effectively and without missteps, the help of a probate lawyer is often needed.
The probate procedure in Kansas is usually not too difficult but can be time-consuming and complexities can arise with large estates or estates where there are challenges to the provisions of a will.
Before distributing assets, the executor (with or without legal assistance) must:
- Prepare and file the correct legal documents
- Give or publish notices
- Attend court hearings
- Get appraisals of property
- Prepare income, gift and estate tax returns
During probate, the court will determine if the will is valid or, if not, how the estate can be distributed according to Kansas estate law.
Do all estates have to go through probate in Kansas?
The vast majority of estates must undergo probate before the executor can distribute the assets in Kansas.
If, however, the estate is valued at no more than $25,000 and only contains personal property, probate is not necessary for Kansas.
Even if probate is not necessary, the will should be filed with the court in case additional property of the deceased is discovered later.
What property is included in the probate process?
Most financial institutions protect themselves from liability by requesting probate before releasing the property. However, only assets owned solely by the deceased must be probated.
So, if a named beneficiary or joint tenant has the automatic right to the assets, probate can be “bypassed” for these assets. This applies to the following types of assets:
- Life insurance: this passes directly to the elected beneficiary, without requiring probate, unless the beneficiary is the insured’s estate or executor.
- Titles to joint tenancy property with right of survivorship: these pass automatically to the surviving joint tenant (subject to possible tax liability).
- A bank account with a “pay on death” provision: this passes directly to the named party.
- Transfer on Death provisions: for instance, with certain securities, titled vehicles and real estate.
With these assets, a certified copy of the death certificate is normally sufficient for the institution holding the asset to make the transfer.
Such assets not subject to probate are usually excluded from a will. If, however, they are named in a will as passing to a different beneficiary, the beneficiary named with the financial institution holding the asset will generally prevail.
Situations like this should be avoided with careful estate planning. Otherwise, legal challenges or unintended consequences of property distribution may result.
Dying without a will in Kansas
Executors are usually appointed according to a probated will in Kansas. However, if there is no will (or no person willing and able to act as executor), the court will appoint an administrator to manage the estate instead.
Probate deadlines in Kansas
Under Kansas law, the filing for probate must be done within six months of the date of death of the will-maker.
Note that there are also deadlines for the filing of state and federal death tax returns (taxes must be paid no later than nine months after the date of death).
Who can file for probate in Kansas?
Any person with knowledge and access to a will may offer it for probate at any time within the six months following the death of the will-maker.
How long does probate take in Kansas?
The probate process takes months rather than weeks in Kansas. The exact timeline will depend on the workload of the probate courts and how thorough you are when you submit the probate application. The minimum is usually four months.
Often, with the assistance of a probate lawyer, you can avoid mistakes that create unnecessary delays. If the will is contested or other issues arise, it can take years rather than months to resolve the matter and, again, legal assistance will be required.
How can you avoid probate in Kansas?
Some people take steps before they die so that their loved ones can avoid the probate process and receive their inheritances without delay.
This usually requires careful estate planning and often a discussion with an estate planning lawyer. Remember, to be legally enforceable, any estate planning steps must be taken while you have the mental capacity to make decisions.
With your estate planning lawyer, you can discuss strategies like setting up a joint tenant arrangement for property ownership. That means the property will automatically pass to the surviving owner(s) upon your death— without the need for probate.
You can also ensure that you have listed beneficiaries for any life insurance policies or retirement accounts, as these will bypass probate too.
Another way to avoid probate is to create a living trust while you’re still alive. Any assets placed in a living trust automatically pass to the beneficiary of the trust without the need for probate.
Whether you need to probate a will or administer an estate, speak to a probate lawyer at ITR Law as soon as possible. During the free consultation, we will advise you of your legal options and the recommended next steps.
Pedro Irigonegaray is one of the most experienced, knowledgeable, professional and compassionate attorneys I have ever known. When you need legal advice or someone to fight for you, get the best. Talk to Mr. Irgonegaray.
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