Does the Personal Representative of an Estate Need a Probate Lawyer?

Legal documents for last will and testament on desk last will and testament with dollar , certificate and key. Concept for personal representative.

If you are named as the personal representative of your loved one’s estate through their Last Will and Testament (commonly referred to as an executor), you may wonder if you should get help from a probate attorney to settle the estate. While Kansas law does not necessarily require the personal representative of an estate to retain an attorney, the best approach to addressing the legal complexities of settling an estate — and to comply with fiduciary responsibilities of a personal representative under Kansas law — is to get assistance from a knowledgeable probate lawyer.

What Is the Process for Settling a Kansas Estate?

When you lose a loved one, you and your family naturally go through a difficult time that can seem overwhelming. You need to focus on the grieving process and finding comfort, as well as address the legal process for settling your loved one’s estate. In most cases, Kansas laws require an estate to go through a specific procedure before the estate can be distributed.

The process that applies to a particular estate depends on the nature of the estate, including the amount and types of assets, as well as on whether the decedent had a valid estate plan to address distribution of the estate. If a person dies without a will or estate plan, Kansas laws determine distribution of the estate.

Whether or not the deceased person had a will, Kansas law may require some assets to go through the probate process. Other assets are not required to go through the process but still need to be distributed to beneficiaries or heirs. When probate is necessary, specific procedures and timelines apply. Also, even if you may not believe you need to use the probate process for a loved one’s Last Will and Testament, in Kansas, it must be filed with the court within 6 months of the date of death so it can be preserved if needed. Therefore, it is crucial to at least consult an attorney so they can help with this preservation, even if you think all the assets will not need to be probated.

The best time to talk with a lawyer is early in the estate administration process, to ensure that the appropriate steps are taken for court appointment of the personal representative, and to determine what process will be required for administration of the estate. If you are named as the executor or personal representative in a will or may have priority under law to serve in that position, it is advisable to get assistance from an attorney before you begin the administration or probate process.

How Does a Probate Lawyer Help?

Regardless of the process that applies to an individual estate, specific statutory requirements apply. Certain procedures and timelines must be followed. In addition, a personal representative has fiduciary duties under state law. When a probate attorney assists with administration and settlement of an estate, the lawyer will make certain that all legal requirements are followed and that the personal representative fulfills every duty imposed under Kansas law.

One of the first determinations for an estate involves ascertaining whether the estate includes assets that must go through the probate process, and what non-probate assets the estate includes. The probate attorney assists with that process, as well as with following all the required steps in the probate process for the assets required to go through the process.

In addition to identifying and reviewing assets, administration requires payment of expenses, debts, and taxes of the decedent and the estate. In cases where disputes arise with creditors or family members, those issues must be resolved during the estate administration process. When the personal representative gets assistance from a probate lawyer, the attorney helps with all those aspects of probate and administration, ensuring that all legal requirements are met and all issues are properly resolved.

The probate and administration process includes preparation and filing of specific formal legal documents. Document preparation and review is one of the important tasks that a probate attorney undertakes for the personal representative, in addition to ensuring that all documents are filed in a timely manner with the appropriate official.

Throughout the process, the lawyer stays in close communication with the personal representative, answering questions and providing explanations. A probate attorney also assists with communications with family members who have questions about the probate and administration process. The lawyer’s overall goal is to complete the detailed legal work, address issues and concerns that arise, and help the personal representative navigate through the process as smoothly and expeditiously as possible.

Schedule a Consultation with an Experienced Kansas Probate Attorney

The probate attorneys at Sloan Law Firm have the experience, knowledge, and skill to assist with estate administration and probate for any Kansas estate. Our attorneys approach every estate with understanding and compassion and assume as much of the burden of estate administration as possible.

From our offices in Topeka and Lawrence, we serve clients throughout the state. We invite you to call us at (785) 357-6311 or to contact us online to schedule a consultation.