What is Probate

When a person dies as the sole owner of property a court proceeding is required to establish a new legal owner of the property. This court process is called a probate proceeding. The laws and procedures are unique from one state to another, and the procedures in Kansas and Missouri are very different.

The first step in a probate proceeding is to determine whether someone had a valid Will (testate) or dies without a valid Will (intestate). A Will often (but not always) determines the person or institution to be appointed as executor for the estate. The executor’s job is the gather the probate property together, make a report to the court of the full extent of the property (the Inventory), deal with claims and expenses for the estate, deal with tax matters, sell property if necessary, and then to distribute the net estate according to the terms of the Will or State law.

Due to the complexity of the Court procedures and the legal liability imposed on an executor (called “fiduciary duties”), it is nearly impossible for an individual to perform the job of an executor properly without legal advice. Because of our firms sole focus on estate planning and probate law we have more than twenty years experience in advising Court appointed executors and Trustees on how to properly perform these tasks.

Importantly, much of a person’s wealth does not typically pass under the probate court system. For example, life insurance, IRAs, and 401(k) type plans all pass by beneficiary designation. This means whomever is named under a beneficiary designation will most likely receive those balance without regard to what the terms of a Will, Trust, or Sate law provide.

While we primarily provide probate advice to executors in Johnson County, Kansas and Jackson County, Missouri, we have experience dealing with the probate Courts in Wyandotte, Miami, Leavenworth, Douglas, Linn, Bourbon, Shawnee, and Brown Counties in Kansas, and with the probate Courts in Clay, Cass, Platte, Benton, and St. Louis Counties in Missouri.