A will is a legal document to fulfill the testator’s wishes after their passing. While a will is commonplace, there will be a handful of occasions where a will can not be located, or there was not one in the first place. When this happens, it can be challenging to understand the next steps in dividing the deceased’s assets among those in their family.
When such situations arise, federal and state laws ensure that the person’s assets are not underappreciated and still go to the proper people within their family. Depending on the marriage situation, children and what the assets are can change where they go and who they will be given to. In the end, while everyone should have a will, even if your most significant asset is a car or home, there are procedures in place to replace the reading of a will.
The First Step is Probate Court
When there is no will to look to, the family and assets will go into probate. Probate is a legal process where the court uses the state’s laws to determine who gets what. Unfortunately, probate can also be a very costly and time-consuming venture as many families may have to wait months and years to get assets finalized and distributed.
What Are The Intestate Succession Laws?
When in probate, the affecting laws are the intestate succession laws. Intestate laws dictate who assets are given to depending on the circumstance. Each state provides its regulations to follow, which can determine which relatives will receive what. Only assets that would have been put through a will would be questioned through intestate laws, meaning that many valuables may not be examined.
Examples would be:
- Funds in an IRA, 401(k), or other retirement plans
- Life insurance proceeds
- Properties that were transferred into a living trust
- Vehicles or real estate held by a transfer-on-death
Each state will have its own regulations in place for what happens if the deceased was married with no children, not married, not married with children, and so on. There is rarely an instance where an estate will go directly to the state as intestacy laws will look for any and all family members to help keep assets within the family.
Intestate Laws In Missouri
Missouri has strict asset distribution laws set in place. Some examples of this would be if you are married with no children, your spouse gets everything, and if you are not married but have children, the children inherit everything. If you have both a spouse and descendants, then the spouse inherits the first $20,000 of your estate plus ½ of your balance, while your children inherit everything else.
Missouri has a simplified probate process in place if assets do not reach over $40,000. This can help the family save money and time when distributing assets. However, to be able to ask for this process, the executor must have a written request stating that there is no will present, any and all debts from the deceased are paid or will be paid, an inventory of assets, the name of the people or businesses who have the property, and the name and relation of those who will receive the property.
Intestate Laws in Kansas
Kansas has its own view of intestate laws that they regulate. If the deceased was married with no children, the spouse inherits everything, but if the deceased had children and no spouse, the children inherit everything. However, in the case where they have both a spouse and children, Kansas gives half of your intestate property to your spouse and the other half to your descendants.
A simplified probate process is also enforced in Kansas to help save families time and money if there is no will. The executor must receive permission before selling, leasing, or mortgaging property and must collect the deceased’s assets to create an inventory, evaluate the property, and pay any final fees. However, similar to Missouri, the executor must have a written request stating where the deceased’s property went, the names of inheritors, whether all debts were paid, and if the deceased person did not receive Kansas medical care.
While there are processes put in place for when there is no will to question, that does not mean that a will is not a necessary legal document to have. If you have any questions about creating a will or changing your current one, contact us at Hartmann Law.