What is Probate?

Probate is a legal process in which the validity of a will is proved, assets are identified, debts are paid, and the remaining assets distributed in accordance with the will.

 When you experience the loss of a loved one, the last thing on your mind is going to court, but it is often necessary to initiate court proceedings to settle and distribute the estate.  At this time it is important to contact an experienced and knowledgeable attorney who can assess your needs and provide you with  legal guidance and representation in court.

The Law Office of James E. Carpenter is ready to put its years of experience to work for you.  In life’s most difficult times, James E. Carpenter can answer your questions and provide needed representation to guide you through the Probate process.

Common Probate Law Questions:

1.  My loved one has died. What do I do first?

Collect all important documents which identify the final wishes of your loved one, including the will and any codicils, or amendments, to the will.  Gather all financial documents you can find, including, for example, titles to property, mortgage documents, bank statements, information about any safety deposit boxes or storage units, titles to cars, loan documents, and bills.  Then contact the Law Office of James E. Carpenter, to schedule an appointment to discuss your unique case.  

2.    I found the will. Now what?

The first thing is to contact the Law Office of James E. Carpenter.  

At your first meeting, James E. Carpenter will review the will and other documents you provide and discuss with you, the best way to proceed with your case.

3.    I can’t find the will, or maybe there never was one. How can the estate be settled?

Kansas Law provides a guide as how to distribute remaining assets if there is no will.  Contact the Law Office of James E. Carpenter to schedule a meeting to assist you in identifying the heirs and the best way to proceed.

4.   I was named as the executor of a will,. What do I do next?

The executor has the duty to identify and collect all assets of the estate; to value those assets; to arrange for opening of a probate estate; to give notice of the court proceedings to all heirs and other parties who may have a claim against the estate; to maintain and sometimes sell the assets; and to pay all approved debts and distribute remaining assets to the proper persons.

The role of executor can be very difficult and challenging.  The Law Office of James E. Carpenter can guide and help you at each step of this process.  The Court has often appointed James E. Carpenter to step in and administer estates, let him put his personal experience to work for you.

5.  What are the first steps in a probate case?

Each estate is different and the steps taken may vary.  To decide what is best for your particular case, contact the Office of James E. Carpenter to discuss your unique situation.

Should probate proceedings be necessary, James E. Carpenter will prepare all the necessary documents for your review and signature.  Proper notice, written or published must be given to each heir and creditor.  At the first court hearing, the Court will appoint an individual to be responsible for managing the estate.  When there is a will, this individual is call the executor, and has been named in the will.  If there is no will, this individual is called an Administrator, but has the same duties to the estate.

If the named executor can not, or does not desire to be names, the court will appoint another individual to fill this role.  The first duties of the executor or administrator are to identify all the assets of the estate: real estate, bank accounts, personal property, stocks, bonds, etc., and prepare a report to the Court within thirty days.

The executor or administrator is also responsible to maintain the value of the property, to determine the value of the property, at times to arrange for the sale of real and personal property, to address any legal issues concerning the decedent, or the decedent’s property, and finally to distribute the assets of the estate to pay any outstanding taxes and approved claims against the estate before distributing the remainder to the heirs.

6. May I challenge a will or the appointment of the executor?

Yes, but before you decide to take such steps, you should discuss the ramifications with a qualified attorney.  These types of challenges can be very difficult to prove, and many wills contain clauses that would disqualify the challenger from inheritance if the challenge fails. 

7.  How long will it take?

Every case is unique.  The duration of a probate case involving a valid will can be as short or four or five months after filing of the original petition and first notice, or the process can take years to complete because of legal challenges to the proceedings or issues surrounding ownership of property