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Probate Administration Attorney in Kansas City, Missouri

Probate is an official court proceeding that commences upon the death of an individual who either left a will or died without one. Probate can be avoided by the decedent having established a living trust before passing on. Otherwise, if there is an estate with independent assets, it generally must go through probate. 

The probate process is spelled out in Missouri and Kansas statutes. Notice of someone’s death must be submitted to the nearest county court within a set period of time following the person’s passing. If there is a will that names a personal representative, that person will be named executor of the estate by the court.  

If there is no will—which is called dying intestate in legal terms—then the court will appoint an executor. The court will generally supervise all activities of the executor, but there are provisions for “independent” supervision in Missouri that can be made in the will or by agreement of all the beneficiaries. In Kansas, there are three types of probate: supervised administration, simplified administration, and informal administration. 

No matter the probate route you take, the process is the same in that all debts and assets must be accounted for and everything must be settled with creditors, the state, and the IRS before beneficiaries can receive what is due to them. There is, thus, a lot of recordkeeping and reporting required for all involved to examine, which further lengthens the process, meaning probate usually takes several months or more. 

If you have just lost a loved one, or you have been named the executor of their estate, you no doubt have many questions or concerns about what is about to transpire. If you are in or around the Kansas City, Missouri, area, reach out to us at The Probate Law Center to provide direction and to clarify any issue you have. We also proudly serve those in all surrounding areas, including Overland Park, Summit, Independence, and Kansas City, Kansas. 

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Types of Probate 

Probate is only necessary if the decedent held assets in his or her name only. Joint assets, such as a home, will pass directly to the co-tenant, or co-owner. Beneficiaries named on life insurance policies or retirement plans will also transfer outside of probate proceedings. A bank account in a person’s individual name could be subject to probate, but it can be created as a “payable-upon-death” instrument to avoid probate. 

Say the decedent owned a boat, car, art, or antique collection in his or her name only, or had gold or securities socked away as a personal possession—those assets would need to go through probate to be evaluated, collected, and distributed, either by the wishes of the decedent in his or her will or according to the state’s law of intestate succession. 

Both Kansas and Missouri allow different approaches to probate. In Missouri, there are both supervised and independent probate procedures. Independent means the court is more hands-off, and the executor is more on his or her own. Kansas is similar and offers three varying supervisorial roles for the court and the executor, as described above. 

The Role of the Administrator, or Executor

The administrator of the estate, commonly referred to as the executor, has many hats to wear in settling the affairs of the decedent. The last task on the list is distributing assets to the named or intestate-eligible beneficiaries. In the interim, all aspects of the estate must be wrapped up, including debts, taxes, and any other obligations. All must be satisfied. In general, the tasks include but are not limited to: 

  • If there is a will, the personal representative must present it to the court along with a death certificate. 

  • If there is no will, a loved one must present a death certificate to the court, which will proceed to appoint an administrator. 

  • The named executor will then collect and determine all assets of the estate. 

  • The executor must then protect those assets. 

  • The administrator (executor) must determine a method when applicable for converting assets to cash and open a bank account for that purpose. 

  • The executor must pay all taxes and creditors; creditors are given a time frame in which to press their claims. 

  • The executor can, when all estate affairs have been settled, then proceed to distribute assets according to the will or the laws of intestate succession. 

Challenges to Probate

The brief outline above assumes everything will go forward without a hitch, but that doesn’t always happen. Challenges can arise not only from unknown creditors, but also from would-be beneficiaries. A creditor challenge is basically an issue of whether it is legitimate or not. Documentary proof may be necessary. 

When it comes to challenges by others who feel slighted or left out, the challenge can get more complex. A spurned or “short-changed” beneficiary may challenge the validity of the entire will. Such challenges can be based on the mental capacity of the testator (will-writer) when the document was created, or even on the grounds that someone exerted undue influence on the decedent when alive, and therefore, gained favored status. 

The probate process can be challenging. Many named personal representatives are not that well versed in accounting principles and/or the administration of assets, which can in itself prove problematic. In addition, the court and others can bring forth questions and challenges that may prove difficult to answer or resolve.  

This leaves the executor, and the beneficiaries waiting for the process to finish, in a state of frustration. An experienced probate attorney can help immensely, not only by clarifying everything but also by helping resolve the issue at hand. 

Probate Administration Attorney Serving Kansas City, Missouri

If you’re going through the probate process in or around Kansas City, Missouri—or in or around Kansas City, Kansas—and you have questions or issues to be dealt with, contact us at The Probate Law Center. Reach out immediately, and let’s work together to get everything back on track.