A will is the foundation of many estate plans, and offers an opportunity for you to convey your property to family members and friends after you have passed.
Every state has its own requirements about wills, legal documents that provide instructions for property distribution after death. In Kansas, there are certain requirements for a will be to be valid, including:
- The maker or “testator” must be at least 18 years old;
- The testator must be of sound mind at the time the will is drafted;
- The will must be properly prepared and signed by the testator; and
- The will must be witnessed by at least two people who will not receive any assets in the will.
In addition, a notary public can sign the will. This is known as a “self-proving” will. Nevertheless, witnesses are still required, and the notary public must make a special certification, if the will is to meet state requirements.
A will should designate an executor to administer and settle the estate. This means paying all debts and taxes out of the estate, and distributing the estate according to the testator’s wishes. An alternate executor should be named to serve as a back-up, in case the first choice can’t serve.
McPherson Sentinel’s recent article, “Estate planning: wills and trusts”, explains that generally Kansas law allows you to distribute property however you like. However, the one major exception is that a spouse has an absolute right to at least half of the estate. If the will is written to give a spouse less than half, that spouse must have agreed to the smaller share of the estate pursuant to state law for the will to be valid as written. This may be accomplished by writing a new will or by writing an amendment to the current will. The document must be signed with all the requirements of the original will.
A will may be revoked by burning, tearing, destroying, or marking through it with the intent of revoking it.
It is important to remember that life events like marriage, divorce, and birth or adoption of a child all have an impact on your will. You should review your will every few years with an experienced estate planning attorney to be certain that it reflects your current wishes.
If you die without a valid will (“intestate”), your property, other than property held jointly, will be divided into various portions depending on whether a spouse, child (ren), parents or other relatives survive.
In 2017, the federal estate tax exemption is $5.49 million per person and will increase to $5.6 million per person in 2018. That includes the total value of all property owned by an individual. In Kansas, there is no state estate tax and no inheritance tax.
Reference: McPherson Sentinel (October 18, 2017) “Estate planning: wills and trusts”