Q: My brother died in February & left behind no estate and no will; can I ignore any collection agency letters?
A: In Kansas, an estate may be opened by any person having an interest in the estate as an heir at law, a legatee or devisee under a will, an executor named in the will, or creditor who is owed money. If no estate is opened within six months of the date of death, creditors' claims would lapse. If a will is known to exist, but the estate does not justify opening an estate, the party in possession is nevertheless responsible for filing the will with the court. There is a procedure under K.S.A. 59-618a that allows for the filing of a will with the court (and providing a copy to interested persons) without opening the estate. If there is no will and no action is taken to open an estate, unsecured creditors--including those represented by a collection agency--would no longer be able to assert their claims. Secured creditors such as mortgage holders would have an in rem interest in the value of the item or items securing the debt.
There are some procedures for transferring some items of personal property below a certain value to the persons entitled to them under the will, subject to the surrender of those items to the probate court if a probate proceeding is initiated within six months of the date of death.
After six months pass, if property remains to be assigned, the heirs at law may initiate a proceeding called a determination f descent.
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