Planning your estate can prevent headaches for your heirs. Your estate consists of everything you own: your home, personal property, car, land, stocks and bonds, life insurance, and any other property in which you have an ownership interest. Estate planning is a plan for how you will acquire property, use it, conserve it and, perhaps most importantly, how it will be transferred upon your death.

There is no way to determine your wishes regarding distribution of your property after your death unless you take appropriate steps prior to your death. Estate planning can be beneficial no matter what the size of the estate.

Probate is legal procedure for settling the decedent’s estate. It is a process by which the court validates the will if there is one, grants authority to the executor or appoints an administrator if there is no will. This process assures payment of taxes, oversees distribution of the property, and provides for legal transfer of ownership of the property.

All property is subject to probate proceedings, whether or not there is a will, except for property owned in joint tenancy with another, any property placed in a trust, property subject to transfer on death deed (real estate or vehicles may be titled in transfer on death titles), payable on death accounts or life insurance proceeds designated for a named beneficiary. The property in these categories automatically passes to the joint tenant, designated beneficiary or trust beneficiary, although it may be subject to inheritance and estate taxes.

A regular probate proceeding takes a minimum of six months from the date they receive notice to file their claims against the estate. There are some simplified, less time-consuming proceedings that may be used in certain cases.

The expense of the probate proceedings depends upon the complexity and value of the estate. In Kansas, Fees for the attorney and executor or administrator are also charged to the estate.

There are a number of options available to avoid probate. These include transfer on death deeds, pay on death beneficiaries for bank accounts, mutual funds, bonds and CDs, and life insurance proceeds.

Information was used from the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services. McPherson County Council on Aging provides free legal advice through Kansas Legal Services.

Call 620-241-4383 for an appointment.