Center Point at Main, 100 S. Main, Suite 420, Wichita, KS 67202

Wichita Spousal Rights and Obligations in Probate

Knowledgeable lawyers provide trustworthy guidance for surviving spouses

Much of the burden of probating a decedent’s estate often falls to the surviving spouse, who also may be the principal beneficiary. This can put the spouse in conflict with other potential heirs. At Peggs Wheeler, LC in Wichita, our probate attorneys are knowledgeable in Kansas probate law and procedure. We understand that the process can be especially stressful while you are still grieving the loss of a beloved spouse. We patiently listen to all your concerns and explain everything you need to know. We are adept at resolving complex probate issues in a timely and efficient manner so you are not inconvenienced by unnecessary delays. If you are looking for a concerned and capable advocate to settle your spouse’s estate while safeguarding your rights, we are here to help.

What happens when your spouse dies without a will?

If there is no will, your spouse’s estate will be administered under the Kansas law of intestate succession. That means the property goes to you and your spouse’s children according to a statutory formula. However, this process does not apply to property in these categories:

  • Property that is jointly owned — Assets that are co-owned with right of survivorship pass automatically to the co-owner without going through probate. If your name is on the deed to your home, it becomes yours free and clear. The same is true for joint bank accounts and credit accounts.
  • Property with a designated beneficiary — Financial instruments, such as a life insurance policy, an IRA or a 401(k), name a beneficiary, and the benefits transfer automatically without probate. Titles to certain assets may have payable-on-death provisions that name a new owner.

If the estate is large enough, it must go through probate. You will likely be appointed the estate’s personal representative. An attorney at our firm can help you obtain letters of administration, organize the estate, notify potential beneficiaries, pay the estate’s debts and distribute the remainder of the estate property.

Does a surviving spouse automatically inherit everything in Kansas?

For purposes of probate, a spouse is someone who was legally married to the deceased at the time of death. The term also applies to someone in a common law marriage — that is, two people who are eligible to marry, who are living together and presenting themselves as a married couple.

If your spouse died intestate, you will inherit the entire value of the estate in probate only if your spouse had no children. If there are children, they inherit half the estate and you also get half. If a child of your spouse is deceased but left surviving children, they are entitled to their parent’s share of the estate.

All children can inherit, including those born out of wedlock, born of a previous marriage or conceived before a parent’s death but born afterwards. Adopted children are also included. However, to be eligible to inherit, an heir must survive the deceased by at least 120 hours.

What obligations does a surviving spouse have?

If you were living with the decedent at the time of death, the burden of settling the estate generally falls on you. As the surviving spouse, you will usually make funeral and burial arrangements, try to locate a will or trust documents and contact a lawyer to begin probate. As the estate representative, you must file for probate within six months of your spouse’s passing. An attorney at our firm can explain how to begin the process as well as the best options for settling your spouse’s estate.

Contact a knowledgeable Wichita probate attorney today

The experienced probate attorneys at Peggs Wheeler, LC in Wichita help clients throughout Kansas settle their loved one’s estates efficiently and in a timely manner. To schedule a free initial consultation, call us at 316-512-7853 or contact us online.