Wills are one of the most significant legal documents used in estate planning. By making a will, you can choose who receives your property, cares for your minor children, and handles your estate after you die. Fortunately, creating a will is a relatively simple process for most people. We have the answers to your frequently asked questions about Kansas wills.
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What If I Die Without a Will in Kansas?
If you die without a will in Kansas, you die “intestate.” Because there is no record of your intentions, a probate court will follow the Kansas statute regarding intestacy laws to distribute your estate. The Kansas Probate Code (K.S.A. 59-101 to 59-2805 and 59-3050 to 59-3408) contains rules and laws about wills and probate proceedings.
In Kansas, if a person dies without a will, any probate assets will go to their closest surviving relatives. Usually, this means your surviving spouse and/or children. For example, if you’re married but have no children, your surviving spouse will receive your entire estate. If you’re married with surviving children, your estate is divided equally between your surviving spouse and children.
If you’re unmarried and do not have children, your estate then goes to your closest surviving relatives; typically, this means your parents, siblings, or nieces and nephews. By not having a will in place, you risk the possibility of causing property disputes and other issues among your loved ones. And if you have minor children or pets, you have no say in who will care for them after your death.
What Does a Will Do?
A will allows you to make important decisions about who will inherit your property, oversee your estate, and care for your kids when you are gone. Generally, a will can include the following provisions:
- A personal representative or executor to make an inventory of your property, distribute your assets to beneficiaries, and otherwise handle your estate
- Instructions on what personal property and real estate you want to give to your beneficiaries
- A guardian for your young children
- A caretaker for your pets
- Instructions on making charitable gifts
By making a will, you can speed up the probate process, making it less of a headache for your surviving family members and friends.
What Doesn’t a Will Do?
There are specific types of property that do not pass to beneficiaries through your will. These are known as “non-probate” assets and typically have co-owners or beneficiaries already in place. Non-probate assets do not go through the probate process and include things like:
- Life insurance policies
- Pensions, 401(k)s, IRAs, Keoghs, and retirement benefits
- Jointly owned property with right of survivorship
- Property in living trusts or irrevocable trusts
Even though these assets are not included in your will, confirming the beneficiaries or co-owners for these accounts and assets while you are working on your estate plan can be helpful. Any asset without a co-owner or beneficiary may go into your probate estate.
Who Can Make a Will in Kansas?
The person making a will is called a testator. To legally make a will in the state of Kansas, you must meet the following requirements:
- Age: You are at least 18 years old.
- Sound Mind: You are of sound mind, meaning you have a basic understanding of the property you own and how you’re disposing of it.
If either of the above is missing, you cannot make a valid will in Kansas. Kansas residents with concerns about if they can make a will should consult an estate planning attorney for legal advice and assistance.
Does Kansas Have a Statutory Will?
No. There is no specific form you must use to create a will in Kansas. If you want to make your own will, resources like FindLaw Legal Forms and Services to help you complete a customized form that follows Kansas law.
What Types of Wills Does Kansas Accept?
Different kinds of wills are acceptable in Kansas. Usually, wills are typewritten and printed before signed by the testator. Other types of wills you should familiarize yourself with include the following:
- Handwritten Will: A will that is handwritten and signed by the testator without witnesses is known as a holographic will. Holographic wills are not legitimate in Kansas. However, if the handwritten will is properly executed (signed by the testator and two competent witnesses), it is not considered a holographic will and is legally binding.
- Oral Will: In Kansas, an oral will made during the testator’s last sickness is known as a nuncupative will. This type of will is acceptable in Kansas for distributing personal property if the testator’s spoken words are put into writing within thirty days after speaking them and signed by two competent and disinterested witnesses.
- Electronic Will: A will that is signed, witnessed, and/or notarized by electronic or digital methods instead of in person is an electronic will. Kansas does not currently accept electronic wills. However, wills created electronically through online services are acceptable if printed and executed correctly.
- Out-of-State Wills: There is no requirement to create an in-state will under Kansas law. A will made by a non-resident can still be lawful in Kansas as long as it is in writing, signed by the testator, and satisfies the law in each of the following locations:
- The jurisdiction where the testator executed it
- The place where the testator lived at the time of execution or death
Can I Make My Own Will in Kansas?
Yes. You do not have to hire an estate planning attorney to create a valid will in Kansas. Many people with simple estate planning needs opt to make their own wills and other legal documents. If you know what property you own, who you want to give it to, and who you want to handle your estate, you can quickly and easily create your will. The advantage of using an online form builder such as FindLaw Legal Forms and Services is that you can gather the necessary information and work at your own pace. You can also customize and update your will after significant life events or if you change your mind about a beneficiary, personal representative, guardian, etc.
How Do I Make My Will Valid in Kansas?
To create a legally valid last will and testament in Kansas, you must meet the following requirements:
- Signature: The testator must sign the will in the presence of two witnesses. If the testator is unable to sign, the testator may direct another person in their presence to sign on their behalf.
- Witnesses: At least two competent witnesses must sign an attestation clause in the testator’s presence that describes the facts and formalities followed during the will’s execution. The witnesses should also be “disinterested,” meaning they do not benefit under the terms of the testator’s will.
- Notary: The testator does not need a notary unless using an optional self-proving affidavit.
- Self-Proving Affidavit: A self-proving affidavit is a statement the testator and witnesses sign in front of a notary. This affidavit may be used in Kansas to avoid submitting additional proof that the testator properly signed their will according to state law.
Can I Disinherit My Spouse in Kansas?
Spouses have specific rights to their deceased spouse’s property in Kansas. A testator can only disinherit their spouse if the spouse has signed a written contract, agreement, consent, or waiver. The surviving spouse is entitled to an elective share of the deceased spouse’s estate, which is based on the length of the marriage.
Can I Disinherit My Children in Kansas?
Children generally have no right to inherit from a parent under Kansas law. However, there may be exceptions for the following situations:
- Minor children may receive homestead and family allowance rights.
- Children born or adopted after a testator signs their will may receive a pretermitted child’s share.
What Estate Planning Documents Should I Have in Kansas?
Making a will is important to ensure your loved ones are cared for after your death. However, an estate plan should also protect you and your family if you’re alive but unable to manage your own affairs:
- Power of Attorney. A power of attorney is a legal document that authorizes another person to act on your behalf if you’re incapacitated. You can name someone you trust as your agent and grant this person the authority to manage your finances and property.
- Health Care Directive. A health care directive, or living will, allows you to state end-of-life instructions regarding the medical care you want or do not want to receive if you’re terminally ill or have some other end-stage condition. You can also choose a health care agent to oversee your care and make treatment decisions based on your wishes.
Fortunately, making a valid will and creating other Kansas estate planning documents is easy with online estate planning templates.