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The Headaches Caused by Failing to Prepare a Will

Weber Law Aug. 30, 2015

While many people transfer the bulk of their estate through a living trust, individuals who fail to set up or fund a trust or prepare a last will and testament can experience serious problems.  Even if you have a living trust, you still typically need a will to cover residual property that is not transferred into the trust.  In this blog post, Wichita Estate Planning Lawyer J. Joseph Weber provides an overview of difficulties that can be created by the failure to prepare a will or similar estate planning document.

The Individual Administering Your Estate Might Not Be The Person You Would Choose: When your will designates an individual to oversee the administration of your estate, the probate judge will typically respect and abide by your decision.  When a decedent fails to draft a will, the judge will appoint an individual to administer the estate based on the judge’s discretion and state law.  This decision-making process obviously creates the risk that the relative selected will not be the individual you would have picked.  The court likely will consider a fair number of family members, so the cost of the selection process will deplete a portion of the funds in the estate.  If you do not have a role in selection of the administrator, this might also lead to higher fees paid to the person who handles the process, which means your legacy has less net value for those to whom you wish to leave your property and money.

Frustration of Your Intentions in Terms of Disposition of Your Estate: Although the court will not generally modify your intentions in terms of the distribution of the assets in your will.  The lack of a will means that your estate will be distributed based on the Kansas intestate succession law.  This law establishes a statutory priority and formulas for the distribution of your property that a court will typically enforce.  These arrangements might deviate dramatically from the intentions and priorities, but generally state law will control in this situation without the judge making an effort to ascertain your objectives and plan.

The Obligation to Pay Estate Taxes Might Fall on the Wrong People: Certain assets pass to a successor through a beneficiary designation, such as a retirement plan.  Assets might pass through intestate succession to another family member who essentially covers the taxes for the retirement plan. Since the estate taxes are paid through the probate court, the tax burden associated with the retirement plan might fall on the wrong party because the proceeds of the retirement plan are disbursed outside the probate process.

These are just a few problems that can be created by failing to engage in any legacy succession planning.  Generally, a well thought out estate plan can avoid wasted time and money and avert unnecessary aggravation.  If you have questions about wills, estate planning, or the probate process, we welcome the opportunity to talk to you and answer your questions.  We invite you to call the Wichita Estate Planning Attorney at the Weber Law Office or to submit an inquiry form through this website to schedule your initial consultation.