What Is Probate of an Estate?

Word probate typed on diary next to an old watch fog and money.

Probate is a legal process established by Kansas law for settling and distributing the estate of a person who passes away. The statutes contain complex provisions for determining the correct process for administration and probate of an estate, based on the nature, extent, and location of the property in the estate. Seeking advice from a knowledgeable probate lawyer is advisable since the process can be complicated. The probate attorneys at Sloan Law Firm have the experience and skill to assist with administration and probate of any estate in Kansas.

Does Every Kansas Estate Go Through Probate?

In many cases, a Kansas estate must be completed through some type of probate process under Chapter 59 of the Kansas Statutes. The nature, value, and location of the estate property determine the applicable process, as well as the deceased’s estate planning that was in place, if any.

However, some assets do not go through probate. An estate may contain both probate and non-probate assets. Making the determination of whether the laws require estate property to complete probate is best accomplished with assistance from a probate attorney.

The types of property and assets that do not go through probate include (in most situations):

  • Assets placed in a living trust during the decedent’s lifetime
  • Property owned by the decedent as a joint tenant with a right of survivorship in another person or persons
  • Assets that transfer automatically on death through a beneficiary designation, such as a life insurance policy or retirement account
  • Property with transfer-on-death or pay-on-death provisions, such as financial accounts and securities

Generally, any estate property solely owned by the deceased person distributed to beneficiaries or heirs must go through probate, with limited exceptions. Probate property in an estate may be given to beneficiaries under a last will and testament or distributed to heirs under the Kansas laws of intestate succession if the decedent died without a will.

Who Handles the Probate of an Estate?

The district court in the county where the decedent resided has authority to appoint a personal representative for the estate, who is the person with legal responsibility for administration and probate of the estate. If there is a will, an executor named in the will has priority under Kansas law for appointment as the personal representative. If a named executor cannot serve or does not wish to serve or there is no will, the court appoints an administrator for the estate based on provisions in state law. Neither an executor nor an administrator has any authority over estate property until the court appoints the personal representative. Petitioning for appointment is an early step in the probate process.

Following appointment as personal representative by the district court, an executor or administrator has substantial fiduciary duties under Kansas law. Failure to perform those responsibilities can result in liability. Ensuring that all necessary legal requirements are properly met is one of the most important reasons that an executor or administrator should consult a probate lawyer before taking any steps in probate or estate administration.

A probate lawyer makes certain that the personal representative fulfills all their legal duties and that the proper process is followed. The decedent’s loved ones can rely on a probate lawyer to carry most of the burden of probate and estate administration, so the family can focus on grieving the lost loved one rather than worrying about legal issues relating to the estate.

What Does Probate Involve?

The probate process follows specific steps, with detailed notification and filing requirements throughout the entire process. After providing the required initial notifications, the personal representative collects the property and assets in the estate, creates an inventory, and establishes the value of the estate property. In some cases, assistance from a professional appraiser may be necessary.

All taxes, expenses, and debts of the estate must be paid during the probate process. If a dispute over debts arises, the personal representative must settle the disagreement. The probate lawyer for the estate assists in the entire process, as well as with completion and filing of required fiduciary tax returns for the estate.

After payment of all amounts owed and proper filings with the court, the personal representative distributes the estate property to the identified beneficiaries and heirs. Following distribution, settlement of the estate is finalized through a filing with the court.

Special Processes for Small Estates

Kansas laws provide for several different types of probate, characterized as supervised administration, simplified administration, and informal administration. Special processes may be available for small estates that meet specific requirements in state law.

Small estate processes are called Refusal to Grant Letters of Administration or Determination of Descent. Whether an estate qualifies for one of these processes is best determined with assistance from an experienced probate lawyer.

How Does a Probate Attorney Help?

The determinations of whether an estate must go through probate, what assets qualify as probate and non-probate assets, and which probate procedures apply to a specific estate all require legal analysis under Kansas laws. Those concerns will be part of the early discussions with a probate lawyer. Relying on a knowledgeable attorney is essential to ensuring that all legal requirements are met.

Regardless of the nature of your loved one’s estate, the probate attorneys at Sloan Law Firm assist with all estate administration and probate requirements. We assume as much of the burden as possible and ease all your concerns, which enables your family to honor your loved one and comfort each other throughout the bereavement process.

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. From our offices in Topeka and Lawrence, we serve clients throughout the state. We invite you to contact us to schedule a consultation.