Estate Planning Blog
Disclaimer: These articles are for general informational use and do not constitute legal advice. Since laws change over time, it's possible some articles are out of date and for that reason, we make no representation that the articles are fully accurate. For actual, up-to-date legal advice (including a free consultation), please contact us!
What is a Will
Most people have a general understanding of what a will is, but estate planning is something people often are not comfortable discussing. That is unfortunate. Having at least a basic will spares a person's surviving loved ones from the unnecessary heartache, burden, and expense that come with a person dying intestate. Especially for individuals with children, a house, or pets, wills and and trusts are very important.
A will, sometimes also called a "Last Will and Testament," is a document that conveys legal ownership of a person's property to someone else when the person dies. The person who writes the will (or for whom it was written) is called the "testator." If the testator has a minor child, a will can also name a guardian for that child and any property he or she may inherit. Likewise, wills can be used to provide for a pet's care when its owner dies. A will can be used for both real and personal property.
Of course, the specifics of how a will must be drafted, what it must contain, and who must be present all vary according to state law. For a will to be valid in Kansas, the person making it must have reached the age of majority (currently 18 years old) and have full mental capacity, sometimes worded as "having a sound mind." That testator will need to create a document, usually a physical paper-based document, that identifies at least some of their property and identifies who that property should go to. Usually, it must also be signed in the presence of at least two witnesses who don't stand to inherit from the will. It must also be submitted to the court within six months of the person's death.
Due to various life changes, a person who creates a will sometimes changes their minds about what is written in it. Fortunately, Kansas law anticipates that and allows a testator to revoke their will. If a person writes a second will at a later date, the more-recent will takes the place of the first one. If the testator wants to ensure there's no question or mistake about which will is correct, the person can burn, tear, or obliterate a will and that destroys it legally, too.
Of course, a will is a legal document so each word and even punctuation can have significant impact on what happens to the testator's property. That is why it is crucial to have help when preparing one. A qualified Kansas estate planning attorney can ensure that your wishes are written out with clear legal language. Contact us today to learn more.
By Cole Bailey, J.D.
Hillary Stirling, research assistant