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Are my stepchildren entitled to anything and do I have to probate?

Phillipsburg, KS |

My husband died without a will. I was sole beneficiary of all life insurance and retirement. Our house, vehicles, and bank accounts were in both our names.

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Attorney answers 2

Posted

Any person who dies without making a valid last will passes “intestate.” Generally, if a person dies intestate then all property, other than property under a fully funded trust, or property passing directly to others (like joint tenant property, or retirement and insurance proceeds to a named beneficiary), generally pass to beneficiaries in the order set under your state intestate statute.

You said that various items of property were left in your name. As to whether this property passes to you directly outside of the intestate process will depend on exactly how you were named and will require review of the relevant documents and instruments. You, therefore, should speak with a local estate attorney to determine the process and rights.

DISCLAIMER—This answer is for informational purposes only and discusses general legal principles, trends, and considerations and is not intended as specific legal advice regarding your question. This answer does not establish an attorney client relationship.

Posted

Robert is right. It's difficult to answer your question directly without more information.

There are two different kinds of joint ownership in Kansas. What most people expect is called Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship. With this kind of joint ownership, the survivor(s) automatically take title to the property after the decedent dies -- no probate is required. But this kind of joint ownership is not the legal default. Special language is required on the titling documents to make this type of ownership effective. If that language is not present, then the joint ownership is considered the legal default -- Tenancy in Common. Property held by Tenancy in Common will be required to go through probate.

If you were the sole beneficiary of the life insurance and retirement accounts, then THESE assets will not be required to go through probate, but that does not mean that a probate estate will not be required to handle other assets.

The only way to answer the big question "Do I have to go to probate?" is to examine each asset individually. That is beyond the scope of the limited interaction afforded by this site. You need to see an attorney.

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