Probate — it’s a word that strikes fear into the hearts of grantors and beneficiaries alike.

But, many people don’t understand exactly what probate is and what it means for their estate planning processes. And that’s why attorney Kevin Kenney is here to help.

As an experienced Kansas City wills and estates attorney, Kevin can help you understand what estate probate is — and exactly how you can avoid it during your own estate planning journey. Your beneficiaries will thank you.

Want to learn more? Schedule a consult with his legal team today, or keep reading below for the basics on probate in Kansas City. However, keep in mind: The information in this article is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.

What is Probate?

While a last will and testament details which beneficiaries will get which assets in a person’s estate, it does not allow for instant transfer of assets to those beneficiaries. There are a few important steps that must take place to put a deceased person’s assets in order before any division of estate can occur.

When a will goes to probate, estate professionals take care of all these responsibilities. Probate ensures that all outstanding debts and other responsibilities are handled prior to distributing assets. During this process, a judge must re-title the deceased person’s assets in the names of his or her heirs. Probate court cases can be lengthy and costly, but they are necessary whenever someone dies with only a last will and testament.

If someone dies without a will, a probate case is carried out according to state law. This can be lengthy and expensive for all involved, especially the assumed beneficiaries. However, probate is the only way that a person’s estate can be divided in this situation. In general, the steps of this process are very similar to the steps of probate court cases with a will.

What is the Purpose of Probate Court?

Simply put, probate court is for organizing a deceased person’s estate. This involves more than just allocating assets to beneficiaries; it’s a legal process that ensures a will adheres to state laws and that the deceased’s responsibilities are taken care of, even after their death.

So, what is the purpose of probating a will in Kansas City? There are a few goals for this legal process:

  • To appoint an executor or personal representative: A last will and testament does not appoint an executor to the estate, so the probate court judge will appoint one instead. This person will oversee the probate process and settle the estate.
  • To locate and determine the value of the deceased’s assets: While a will identifies exactly what assets will pass to which beneficiaries, finding those assets is often another problem. Some people even leave certain assets out of their wills, but an executor must identify them all in order to fairly dispense the contents of the estate. Usually, this process includes obtaining deeds and titles and paying necessary insurances and mortgages to protect the assets during probate.
  • To identify and notify creditors: In addition to notifying the beneficiaries listed in a will, an executor must allow time for creditors to make their cases known, as well. A notice may be listed in the newspaper that the deceased’s estate is in probate and any known creditors must step forward within a certain amount of time to make a claim against money they’re owed.
  • To pay the deceased’s final debts and taxes: Just because a person dies doesn’t mean their debts are erased. It is the executor’s job to identify any outstanding and pay any estate taxes. This ensures that assets can legally and efficiently pass from the estate to the named beneficiaries.

It’s important to remember that the process of preparing for and having a probate hearing will vary based on state laws. An estate may have to go through additional steps to those listed above before assets can be distributed among beneficiaries.

Can I Avoid Estate Probate in Kansas City?

When a will goes to probate in Kansas City, it can be a strain on a family during a time when members are already grieving the death of a loved one. Fortunately, probate can be easily avoided with a little bit of estate planning.

Many people consider a last will and testament to be all they need to plan their estate, but they couldn’t be more wrong. A last will and testament must always go through the judicial probate process, which can take anywhere from six to nine months to complete. During that time, it can cost beneficiaries a great deal of time and money to simply get what is listed for them in the will.

All that’s needed to avoid probate is a detailed trust in addition to a last will and testament. By placing assets of an estate in a trust, a grantor can save their beneficiaries from having to go through probate. Instead, the assets can be passed directly to the beneficiaries upon the grantor’s death (or throughout the grantor’s life, if they create a living trust). A trust also keeps the contents of a grantor’s estate private and shields beneficiaries from having to pay estate taxes.

While a trust is a bit more complicated to set up than a last will and testament, it can be an easy process with an estates attorney like Kevin Kenney. When you contact attorney Kevin Kenney to create a last will and testament, he can also guide you through the trust creation process. All of your estate planning bases will be covered with his help.

This means Kevin and his legal team can also help you:

Every person’s estate planning needs are different, which is why attorney Kevin Kenney will help you create the plan that is best for your personal situation. To get started today, give his legal team a call at 913-671-8008 or schedule an initial consultation online.