IN NEWTON, KANSAS
According to a 2019 study by Merrill Lynch in partnership with Age Wave, about half of Americans aged 55 years and above do not have a will or estate plan. When a person dies without an estate plan, the surviving loved ones must trudge through the probate process to settle the decedent's final affairs. In Kansas, probate offers the surviving spouse, family members, and other close relatives the legal authority to gather the deceased estate's assets, pay debts and taxes, and ultimately transfer remaining assets to beneficiaries and heirs.
With over 44 years of legal experience, I am committed to helping heirs and fiduciaries through the complexities of the probate process. As a knowledgeable Kansas estate planning and probate attorney, I can educate you on the benefits of having a will or trust and discuss all of the legal options that you can take to avoid probate. As your legal counsel, I can offer you the comprehensive legal guidance and advocacy that you need to navigate the complexities of wills, probate, or trust administration.
Cornerstone Law, LLC is proud to serve clients throughout Newton, Kansas, and the surrounding communities of Wichita, Harvey, Hutchinson, Hillsboro, McPherson, and Marion.
WHAT IS PROBATE?
Probate can be described as a court-supervised process that is typically required to settle the final affairs of the decedent. The probate process involves gathering and assessing the deceased person's assets, paying debts and taxes, and determining inheritors. In Kansas, the entire process may take from six months to one year. In some cases, probate may take longer, especially when family members, creditors, and other close relatives of the deceased estate are hostile over the remaining assets.
HOW DOES PROBATE AFFECT
YOUR SURVIVING FAMILY MEMBERS?
Probate affects your surviving family members and loved ones through the following ways:
The cost of probate is often expensive. This eventually reduces the size of your estate that may be inherited by your loved ones.
Assets and bank accounts are frozen during the probate process. Thus, making them completely inaccessible by your surviving loved ones until probate is finalized.
The probate process can be very time-consuming. There will be long delays before assets are transferred to your heirs and beneficiaries.
The lack of privacy in probate makes your estate a matter of public record.
The property will be subject to inheritance tax, state taxes, and federal estate taxes.
There is a lack of control. Personal representatives have little or no discretion on how to handle certain assets or debts.
HOW THE PROBATE PROCESS WORKS IN KANSAS
The Kansas probate process begins by filing a petition for the court to appoint an executor (if there is a Will) or an administrator (if there is no Will). Once appointed, the executor or administrator will do the following:
Notify heirs (such as a spouse, children, grandchildren), beneficiaries named in the will, and creditors of the probate proceedings
Collect and manage all the probate assets of the decedent
Collect all decedent's income, including rents, interests, dividends, debts owed, and claims
Pay the decedent's final expenses
Pay the valid claims of creditors
Pay all federal and state taxes, including estate, inheritance, and income tax
Prepare and file the decedent's final income tax returns
Transfer the deceased's title to heirs.
Distribute all remaining assets to the beneficiaries.
HOW TO AVOID PROBATE
In Kansas, it is possible to avoid the expensive and time-consuming probate process by planning ahead. Some possible ways to avoid probate include:
If an asset is listed with more than one owner, the property is automatically transferred to the surviving owner(s) without going through probate.
A will is a legal document that provides detailed instructions about how your asset should be distributed to surviving loved ones or disposed of upon death.
A trust is a fiduciary relationship that involves appointing a person (trustee) to handle your final affairs and transfer assets to beneficiaries or heirs upon your death.
OTHER WAYS TO AVOID PROBATE
Other ways to avoid probate include:
Transfer on death accounts or Payable on death accounts
Tenancy by the entirety
WILLS VS. TRUSTS
Wills are cheaper up front but won't allow your family to avoid probate later on. A will must be presented to the Kansas court to verify that it is valid. Conversely, trusts are a bit trickier, and pricier upfront but are designed to prevent your family from having to go through probate once you're gone. A knowledgeable estate planning attorney can review your unique situation and determine the ideal option that fits your needs.
WORK WITH AN EXPERIENCED PROBATE ATTORNEY IN NEWTON, KANSAS
The Kansas probate process involves a lot of complexities. Without having the required estate planning documents, your surviving loved ones and estate must pass through the probate process. Thankfully, having a trust helps your surviving family members and close relatives avoid the time-consuming and costly probate process after your demise. An experienced Kansas estate planning attorney can help you determine the right estate plan that best fits your unique needs.
At Cornerstone Law, LLC, I am fully prepared to provide detailed guidance, support, and advocacy on all matters of probate and estate planning. As your legal counsel, I can help:
Assess your unique situation and help you understand your options
Guide you through the process
Update existing wills/trusts
Provide compassionate counsel and aggressive litigation strategies
Using my extensive experience, I can simplify complex probate procedures, protect your assets and investments, and diligently address the needs and concerns of both you and your loved ones.
HIRE A RELIABLE PROBATE ATTORNEY SERVING NEWTON, KS
Probate is an emotional and complex process. However, you don't have to go through it alone. Contact Cornerstone Law, LLC today to schedule a one-on-one consultation. I can guide you through every step of the probate process and help you navigate key decisions. I'm proud to serve clients throughout Newton, Wichita, Harvey, Hutchinson, Hillsboro, McPherson, and Marion, Kansas.