Wills Attorney in Newton, Kansas

A will is a basic but effective tool for expressing your wishes after you die. Without a will, your estate is distributed according to the laws of intestate succession, whether it follows your wishes or not. Having a fully executed and valid will can ensure your debts are paid and your assets and personal property are given to those you choose, rather than having the probate court make those decisions.

Although there is a wide selection of online templates people can use to create their own wills, they are not always the best option. If the will does not fully conform to the laws of your state, the court may still end up deciding how your estate is distributed. The investment you make to have your last will and testament drafted and executed by an experienced estate planning attorney is a wise option.

Individuals and families from Newton, Wichita, Hutchinson, El Dorado, McPherson, and Hillsboro, Kansas, have come to me at Cornerstone Law, LLC for help crafting wills that express their wishes and hold up under the scrutiny of the law. Reach out today to schedule a consultation.

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Overview of Wills

A will specifies who you leave your assets to, allows you to appoint a guardian for minor children and someone to manage your assets on behalf of your minor children, and name an executor to carry out your wishes after your death.

There are written and witnessed wills, oral or “nuncupative” wills, and handwritten or “holographic” wills. In Kansas, holographic wills are not valid. Nuncupative wills are valid only if spoken during the last illness, put into writing, and signed by two competent, disinterested witnesses. They also can be used only to distribute personal property, not any other assets.

A valid will must be in writing, signed by the person making the will (testator) or by someone present at the direction of the testator, and signed by two disinterested parties who witness the testator’s signing of the will. Kansas wills must also be updated as your situation changes (marriages or the birth of children, etc.).

Assets of the estate with designated beneficiaries — such as real and personal property with “transfer on death” or “title on death” documentation, “payable on death” bank accounts, life insurance policies with named beneficiaries, and joint tenancy real property — do not need to be included in a will or go through probate. Money, real estate, and personal property without otherwise named beneficiaries can be inherited assets passed on through a will.

Why Having a Will Is Important

If you die without a will (referred to as dying “intestate”), you don’t get to decide how your estate is divided. The court follows Kansas law in dividing your estate between your spouse, children, or other heirs according to the law of intestate succession, even if you wanted your estate to be distributed differently. If you have neither a spouse nor heirs, the state will keep your estate.

If there is no will, a decedent’s estate goes through the probate process. The court designates an executor (usually a spouse or adult child) to handle the usual duties of dispensing the estate according to the laws of intestate succession.

Valid wills are also probated, but estates with values of $40,000 or less can avoid probate if an heir signs an affidavit attesting to its value. A will for a small estate may go through a simplified probate process if requested by the executor and approved by the court.

Differences Between Wills and Trusts

The key difference between a will and trust is that wills are subject to probate, which makes them public documents and subjects them to legal challenges.

A trust does not go through probate, so its assets and distribution remain private. A trust also is not subject to court challenges.

Guardians for minor children can only be named in a will, not in a trust. This is why it is advisable for trust grantors who have minor children to also have a will.

Choose a Skilled Attorney

It is never too early for any adult to draft a will, even if it must be updated as life circumstances change. Always having a valid will can provide peace of mind for you as you face the future. It will also allow your loved ones to grieve without the stress and anxiety of trying to handle your estate without your instruction.

Even if you have only a few assets, like a home, a vehicle, or a checking account, you should rely on the counsel of an experienced estate planning attorney to make sure documents are drafted and executed correctly.

Wills Attorney
Serving Newton, Kansas

Individuals and families across Newton, Wichita, Hutchinson, El Dorado, McPherson, and Hillsboro, Kansas have turned to me at CornerStone Law, LLC for more than 40 years to get help with their wills, trusts, and other important estate planning needs. Give yourself and your loved ones the gift of peace of mind. Call me today to schedule a consultation.