Under Kansas law, if someone dies without a last will and testament (“will”), his estate is transferred half to his or her spouse and half to his or her children. Many people prefer that most of their estate go to their spouse while the spouse is living. Wills can do that, they can waive the requirement for a bond for the executor, and a will can nominate a guardian for the decedent’s children, particularly appropriate and necessary when there are minor children and both spouses die in a common disaster like a car wreck.
We also encourage young families to consider creating a testamentary trust in the parents’ wills for the benefit of their children. A testamentary trust does not come into being until the death of the parent. However, by putting the assets in trust, often large life insurance policy proceeds, the trustee can spend what money is necessary to meet the needs including health and education, of the beneficiaries. There is the added benefit that the trustee can continue to hold the assets of the estate past the children’s 18th birthday, on which they might otherwise receive large sums. Most parents do not want their children to have large sums of money until they have completed their education and are otherwise established. Some choose age 25, 30 and even age 35 as the age they want their children to receive the remainder of their estate from the Trustee.
Young adults who receive large sums of money often lack the judgment and experience to invest the money wisely. Some become targets of friends and others who want to “help them invest.” Others may be more tempted to create or feed a drug habit. Many parents believe that they do not want their children to become dependent upon this easy money at a point in their life that they should be learning to live and act independently. Without the benefit of a trust, children are able to receive their entire share of the estate at age 18.
Our firm also prepares Living Trusts for our clients who request them. These are often great tools for senior adults to utilize to own and manage their assets. In this manner, they can easily later resign as Trustee of their own trust and have another trusted individual or institution take over the responsibilities of managing their financial affairs without the involvement of courts or any other delays. Often, a family can avoid the need to go to court to probate the estate of a decedent when there is a Living Trust in place that distributes the decedent’s property upon death.
Our firm can easily prepare Power of Attorney, Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions, and/or a “Living Will” for our clients often for a modest additional cost, when it is preparing a will or trust.