Some estimates suggest that only 44 percent of American adults over the age of 55 and only 22.5 percent of adults aged 35-54 have made Wills.
With the recent threats raised by the pandemic, these numbers have increased slightly in the past couple of years but the majority of U.S. adults are unprepared for their death.
So, what happens if you die without a will in Kansas? Where does your property go and are there any situations where it will go to the state?
Dying intestate, as it is known, can present serious hardships for those you leave behind as the Kansas law of intestate succession will decide what happens to your property…
Kansas law of intestate succession
When a person dies in Kansas, the Will they leave behind usually outlines how their estate will be distributed and who has authority to manage the process.
In the absence of a Will, the decedent has no control over this process.
Instead, the Kansas Probate Code includes succession laws that must be followed to ensure that assets and debts of the estate are dispersed fairly. Without these laws, the courts here may be overflowing with inheritance and Will disputes.
Ultimately, under Kansas law, if a person dies intestate, any assets owned solely in his or her name go to the closest living relatives. This is set out according to an order of priority in which a decedent’s heirs will inherit the property in the estate.
Note that any shared assets or those designated with a transfer-on-death stipulation, such as certain deeds, life insurance policies, and so on are not subject to the Kansas intestate succession laws.
Who are the beneficiaries in the event of an intestate death?
The general order of priority for the inheritance of an estate where there is no Will is as follows:
For a married decedent
If the person who dies was married and has a surviving spouse, the entire estate generally passes over to this spouse if there are no children from the marriage.
If a spouse and children survive the deceased, the estate’s assets are divided in half equally between the spouse and the surviving children. If the decedent had a child who is deceased, that child’s descendants inherit the child’s share.
Often, when married couples make Wills, they stipulate that the entire estate goes to the surviving spouse, who is responsible for ensuring the care of dependent children. So, the intestate succession laws may be contrary to the wishes of the deceased.
For an unmarried decedent
If a person passes away unmarried, his or her children (or lineal descendants of a deceased child) will inherit the entire estate under Kansas succession laws.
If there are no surviving children or lineal descendants, then the deceased’s parents will inherit the entire estate and, if they are no longer alive, the siblings of the deceased will inherit the entire estate.
If there are no siblings, an established order of priority between the more distant relatives of the deceased (nieces, nephews, cousins, etc.) is applied.
Can your property pass to the State of Kansas?
In rare cases, where a decedent has no heirs or the heirs cannot be determined, the assets in the estate will pass to the State of Kansas in a process that is called escheat.
In most cases, a distant relative at least can be determined and located.
Even half-brothers or sisters, born to the same father but a different mother, and other half-relatives, are considered before the state will claim anything
If the deceased person fathers a child who is born after they die, he or she is still entitled to their intestate share—and their immigration status has no bearing on the inheritance.
However, anyone who committed a crime that caused the death of the deceased relative cannot claim a share of the intestate assets.
What happens to probate if there is no Will?
Generally, after a person dies having left a Will, it must pass through the probate process. This is a court-supervised process to determine the Will’s validity and authorize the executor to transfer assets and administer the estate according to the instructions contained in the Will.
Under the state’s intestate succession laws, solely-owned property of a decedent is generally subject to probate for an estate even if there is no Will.
Some assets are not subject to probate or intestate succession and may be distributed before the probate process is complete. This includes assets placed in a living trust, those with named beneficiaries (e.g., life insurance policies and IRAs/401(k)s), property in joint ownership with a right of survivorship, and any accounts or property registered as pay-on-death or transfer-on-death.
As part of the probate process for an intestate estate, a family member of the deceased usually applies to the court to be appointed as the personal representative of the estate.
Will planning in Kansas
In Kansas, unless you make a will, the courts may decide what happens to your assets. You lose control of the process and assets may end up going to unintended heirs.
To ensure that you maintain control over your assets after death and can make adequate provisions for loved ones, you need to create a Will.
This is usually the starting place for creating several estate planning documents that help you plan for later in life and after death.
When you make a Will with one of our estate planning lawyers, we will ensure that you cover all the areas that are important to you and that the document will be legally enforceable.
You will name a personal representative to act on your behalf after death settling debts and transferring assets according to your instructions. As well as directing assets to be left with loved ones, a Will enables you to make provisions for any dependents, such as children who may need a guardian if you pass away before they reach their adult years. You can even make provisions for a beloved pet!
Ultimately, making a Will reduces the chances of disputes arising between family members and ensures you have the last say on where your assets go—without the need for state intervention.
This is best accomplished with the assistance of a qualified and experienced lawyer. Speak to the estate planning lawyers at ITR Law in Topeka for a free case evaluation and advice on your options.