Kansas law requires a petition to be filed to open a probate case within six months of an individual's death, according to the Kansas Bar Association. The assets that remain at the end of the process are distributed to the beneficiaries the decedent named in a will or to certain family members as determined by state laws of intestacy if he had no will or the court finds the will invalid.
Once the probate case is opened, in Kansas the executor is responsible for a number of duties, including taking possession of the decedent's property and notifying heirs and creditors of the death. The executor is also responsible for determining the name, address, age and degree of relationship of the decedent's heirs and paying the final debts of the deceased. The process includes attending court hearings and filing necessary paperwork with the probate court. If there is a will, the executor is responsible for providing the items and sums included in the will to the intended beneficiaries. If no will exists, the executor distributes any remaining property in accordance with the laws of intestacy.
Surviving Spouse's Rights
Kansas law provides several protections for surviving spouses. For example, Kansas estate planning attorney Victor Panus says that surviving spouses are entitled to exempt property, including household furnishings and one vehicle. Additionally, the spouse and minor children are entitled to a family allowance of $35,000 and a homestead exemption of 1 acre of a city residence or 160 acres outside of a city, regardless of their value. The surviving spouse is also entitled to half of all real property owned by the decedent when he died, regardless of what the will says.
A surviving spouse has the option to take whatever was left to her in the will or the amount provided to her by state law known as her elective share. The portion to which she is entitled under state law increases the longer the couple was married, ranging from 3 percent of the augmented estate for marriages lasting one year to 50 percent of the augmented estate for marriages lasting 15 or more years. The augmented estate refers to the value of the probate assets and nonprobate transfers to the surviving spouse and others minus funeral expenses, claims against the estate, homestead rights and family allowances.
If there is no will or the probate court determines that it is invalid, the remaining property is distributed according to the Kansas rules of intestate succession. This series of laws states that the surviving spouse shall inherit everything if the decedent has no descendants. If there are surviving children but no surviving spouse, the children inherit everything. If there are both surviving descendants -- such as children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren -- and a surviving spouse, the surviving spouse inherits half of the estate and the descendants inherit the other half. Parents and then siblings have the next priority.
Read More: The Effect of Abandonment of Heirs on Intestate Succession
The probate process is only concerned with assets the decedent owned at the time of death. Therefore, trust assets, life insurance proceeds, assets that pass through a transfer-on-death or payable-on-death designation or assets that are owned with someone else as joint tenants are excluded from these proceedings.
Samantha Kemp is a lawyer for a general practice firm. She has been writing professionally since 2009. Her articles focus on legal issues, personal finance, business and education. Kemp acquired her JD from the University of Arkansas School of Law. She also has degrees in economics and business and teaching.