What Are the Probate Laws in Kansas When You Die Without a Will?
The Kansas probate legislative code decides who inherits from a deceased person's estate when a resident dies without a last will and testament, or if they live elsewhere but own property located within the state. This part of the probate code is known as intestate succession laws.
"Intestate" refers to a probate proceeding that must move forward without a will to determine who should receive the decedent's property. "Succession" describes the order in which heirs will inherit, from closest to most distant relatives. Intestacy succession laws cover various situations when someone dies with no will in place.
Surviving Spouse and Descendants
The decedent's estate would be distributed in one of the following scenarios under the Kansas probate code if they were survived by descendants and/or a spouse.
Descendants are children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren and the offspring of each generation going forward.
- A surviving spouse would inherit one-half of the deceased spouse's probate estate, and their descendants inherit the other half per stirpes if the decedent was survived by both a spouse and descendants.
- The surviving spouse would inherit the deceased's entire probate estate if the decedent left no children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, or other descendants.
- The deceased person's descendants would inherit the entire probate estate per stirpes if the deceased left no surviving spouse.
"Per stirpes" is a Latin term that means each heir takes by representation: Their children represent the deceased parent for purposes of settling the estate. Two children would equally share their parent's portion of the estate if the parent was deceased.
For example, the grandchildren would each receive half of their deceased parent's one-half share, or 25% of the estate each, if the decedent had a spouse, one child, and two grandchildren, but their child is no longer living and is the parent of their grandchildren.
When There Aren't a Spouse or Descendants
The intestacy laws in Kansas look for more distant relatives if a decedent isn't survived by a spouse or any descendants.
- The decedent's parents would inherit the entire estate in equal shares if both were living, but the deceased left no spouse or descendants. The entire estate would go to the surviving parent if only one was still living.
- The deceased person's brother, sisters, and the descendants of their deceased brothers and/or sisters would inherit the entire probate estate per stirpes if the deceased was survived by siblings or descendants of siblings, but no spouse, descendants, or parents.
- The entire probate estate would escheat to the state of Kansas if the decedent was not survived any family members, or any that can't be identified and located.
"Escheat" means that property reverts to the government when no legal owner can be established.
What Will You Inherit?
Even if you determine that you're entitled to an intestate share of a relative's Kansas estate, you might not inherit anything. Two circumstances could prevent it.
Not all property requires probate to pass to a beneficiary. Some bank accounts are "payable on death." They transfer directly to a named beneficiary without necessity of probate. The same can apply to retirement accounts and certain investment accounts that name designated beneficiaries. Real estate can be held by joint owners with "rights of survivorship," and this, too, would pass directly to the surviving owner.
It's also possible that the decedent owed significant debts at the time of their death. The estate would be insolvent if the debts exceeded the value of the probate estate. Heirs can only receive what's left after all the decedent's debts and taxes have been paid, so they would receive nothing if the estate doesn't contain enough property and funds for all creditors to receive what they're owed.
Consult with a Kansas probate attorney if you're not sure about your legal rights as an intestate heir.
NOTE: State laws change frequently, and this information may not reflect recent changes in the laws. For current legal advice, please consult with an attorney. The information contained in this article is not legal advice and is not a substitute for legal advice.