When it comes to planning for their estate after death, many people don’t understand how the process really works. So, many create a last will and testament, thinking that’s enough — when, in reality, this leaves their beneficiaries to handle the messy and complicated probate process.

So, before you start your estate planning, you should first understand exactly how probate works. Only then can you fully comprehend the disadvantages of this legal process and why you should take extra steps to protect your beneficiaries from it upon your death.

Attorney Kevin Kenney and his legal team are always here to answer your questions about what the probate process is like in Kansas and Missouri, but you can also learn more about the basics of this legal process below. However, please keep in mind that this information is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice. You must schedule a consultation with Kevin and his team to get the personalized guidance you need.

How to Probate a Will in Kansas or Missouri

Before we get into more detail about the steps in the probate process, it’s important to remember that every probate proceeding will be different. Many aspects determine how to probate a will, and factors such as the size of the estate, any existing estate documents and more can influence the steps of probate in a particular situation.

While neither Kansas nor Missouri have adopted the Uniform Probate Code, there are a few common steps in the last will and testament probate process in these states:

Step 1: Submit a Petition to Initiate the Probate Process.

Before a probate court process can begin, the last will and testament involved must be authenticated. It must be filed with a probate court as soon as reasonably possible after the maker’s death, and it may need to be accompanied by a death certificate.

A judge will authenticate a will through a probate hearing. This hearing will notify all the decedent’s heirs and gives interested parties an opportunity to object to the will being submitted for process — for example, if someone possesses a newer will or other estate planning documents that eliminate the need for the probate court process.

Step 2: Appoint an Executor.

During this hearing, a judge will also appoint an executor, who will oversee the probate process and settle the estate. An executor may be listed in the will but, if not, the next of kin (a spouse or adult child) will usually step into this role.

Step 3: Post Bond (If Necessary).

Sometimes, before an executor can take control of a probate proceeding, they will need to post bond. This acts as an insurance policy in case the executor commits an error that financially damages the estate and beneficiaries.

Step 4: Locate the Assets in the Estate and Determine Death Values.

Once all of the initial steps of the probate process are complete, the executor can move forward with finding the assets listed in the estate and preparing them for division to beneficiaries. An executor is responsible for all items in a person’s estate — not just those listed in the will — so this step can take a while.

Usually, this involves gathering titles and deeds for property such as houses, cars, bank accounts and more. An executor must also pay mortgages and other loans during the probate process, in order to protect the assets for the beneficiaries. At the same time, an executor is responsible for fairly determining the asset’s values with account statements and appraisals.

Depending on state laws and requirements, the assets’ values must be submitted in writing to the court prior to distribution of the estate.

Step 5: Identify and Notify Creditors and Pay Debts.

A person’s debts don’t die with them. An executor must ensure all outstanding debts are paid prior to the distribution of the estate. Often, this involves notifying creditors through a notice published in a local newspaper.

Step 6: Prepare and File Tax Returns.

Before any assets can be distributed, an executor must finalize the deceased’s estate by filing the final personal income tax returns for the year of their death. If an estate is subject to estate taxes, those returns will need to be filed as well.

This step is a big reason why probate procedures can take so long; estate taxes are usually due within nine months of the decedent’s date of death.

Step 7: Distribute the Estate.

Finally, the last step in the wills and probate process is to distribute the assets of the estate, as detailed in the last will and testament. The executor will petition the court for permission to distribute, often submitting a report of every financial transaction they’ve engaged in on the estate’s behalf up until this point.

Once judicial permission is granted, transfer documents can be drawn up and filed with the appropriate state or county officials to finalize the grantor’s last requests.

Avoid the Kansas City Probate Process with Kevin Kenney’s Help

When you learn how to probate a will, you might be overwhelmed at the time and extra cost it requires. Fortunately, the will probate process in Kansas or Missouri can be easily avoided with a little bit of estate planning.

Everyone needs estate planning, whether you are young, older, a parent or an individual. The unfortunate reality is that death can happen anytime. If it happens before you complete proper estate planning, your beneficiaries will be subject to the complicated probate court process in Kansas or Missouri.

So, don’t hesitate to complete your estate planning as soon as possible, whatever your personal situation.

Attorney Kevin Kenney has assisted many people through the estate planning process to avoid probate procedures after their death. He can do the same for you, too. When you choose Kevin as your Kansas City wills and estates attorney, he can help you complete:

The best way to avoid the probate process in Kansas City will always be working with an experienced estates attorney like Kevin Kenney. To learn more, give his team a call at 913-671-8008 or schedule an initial consultation online.