Purpose of Probate
The purpose of probate is to gather a decedent’s property, pay his final debts and distribute any remaining assets to the proper beneficiaries. The probate court appoints a person – called an executor or personal representative – to administer the decedent’s estate and gives this person “letters testamentary” as verification of his authority. The executor is usually the person named as such in the will. The probate court will also hear any contested matters, such as disputes about the validity of a will.
Types of Administration
In Kansas, a decedent’s estate may require formal administration, depending on the size of the estate or other factors that encourage increased court supervision. Simplified administration for some estates is possible, with court approval. Kansas also allows informal administration when the decedent leaves a will. However, the court still must approve informal administration, which requires a court petition and admission of the will to the court.
Refusal to Grant Letters
Probate can be avoided if the court refuses to grant letters testamentary, but this refusal requires a court petition. The court may refuse to grant these letters if the value of the estate is $25,000 or less, there is a surviving spouse or minor children and the estate’s value is less than their family allowance. The court may also refuse to grant letters if the estate’s value is $50,000 or less, and there is no surviving spouse or minor children, or they have waived their family allowance.
Small Estate Affidavit
Probate can also be avoided if the decedent’s estate qualifies for distribution by a small estate affidavit, which allows the decedent’s assets to be transferred by an affidavit from the beneficiary rather than through a court order. The decedent’s probate assets must be valued at $40,000 or less to qualify as a small estate.