Does the Thought of Probate Feel Overwhelming?
For most people, the word probate brings up negative feelings and thoughts: it’s going to take forever; it’s going to cost a fortune; probate will eat up the entire estate…and so on. The good news is that many estates do not need probate at all, and for those that do, it can be a relatively simple process.
What Is Probate and Do We Need It?
Simply put, probate is the process used to transfer assets from a deceased person to their heirs or beneficiaries. When a person passes away and owns assets (a home, a car, bank accounts, etc.), and there is not a joint owner or beneficiary, then probate may be needed to transfer those assets. The only way to transfer real property, like a home, a rental property or a farm, that are owned by the decedent is through the court process also known as probate. Other assets can sometimes be transferred without probate, depending on their value.
Even if probate is not needed, an attorney can help you sort through the many questions and tasks needed to wrap up a loved one’s final affairs.
There is a Last Will & Testament, Do We Still Need Probate?
Yes! It is a common misconception that a Will can avoid probate. A Will does not by itself transfer assets, or even appoint an Executor. A Will has no power until a Court has reviewed it and admitted the Will to probate. At that time an Executor is appointed by the Court and that person can then act on behalf of the estate.
If your loved one had a Last Will & Testament, it is critical that you meet with an attorney as soon as possible. In Kansas, a Will is only valid for six months after a person has passed away. That and other important deadlines can pass quickly, so meeting with an attorney that can explain the law and assist you with the process is very important.
My Family has a Trust, Do I Need an Attorney?
Yes! If your family or loved one has a Trust in place, you will hopefully be able to avoid probate. However, Trust Administration, or acting as a Trustee for another person’s trust still requires the expertise of understanding the terms of the Trust as well as knowledge of the laws that apply to Trusts. For example, there are still deadlines and legal notices that are required by law that you may not know about. Obtaining the advice of a knowledgeable attorney will make sure that these deadlines and notices are not missed and that you, as a Trustee, are not making costly mistakes for which you could be held personally liable.
I’m Getting Bills in the Mail, Should I Pay Them?
No! In almost all cases, you are not responsible for your loved one’s bills. While there are some bills that you may choose to pay from your own funds, like a mortgage or utility bill for the home that you live in, many bills do not have to be paid right away, or at all. You should speak with an attorney before paying any bills or even speaking with a creditor.
Call for a Consultation Today.
At KS Estate & Elder Law, we understand that losing a family member is difficult even without having to think about what to do with assets and creditors. That is why we will assist you with compassion and the experience you need to make this process less complex and overwhelming. While we do charge a small fee for probate consultation, often times many, if not all, of your questions can be answered without the need to retain us for further work. If further work is needed, a retainer will be quoted to you at the end of the consultation. We look forward to hearing from you.