Estate planning: exercise your will

J. Michael Lamb

By J. Michael Lamb, ’80, EMBA, CFRE
WSU Foundation Vice President for Planned Giving

“I don’t have time to put together a will.” “Creating a will is too expensive.” “Drafting a will would make me think about death, and that makes me uncomfortable.” “I will just leave distribution of my estate up to the state.”

More than half of all Americans die without a will and the reasons are many, including those noted above. In legal terms, a person who dies without a will is referred to as having died intestate. In this case, the laws of the state in which the person lived control the distribution of the property of the deceased. The laws of each state vary regarding this distribution sequence.

FinancesIn Kansas, for example, if the deceased was married, but had no children, the surviving spouse receives all of the decedent’s property (the estate). If there is a surviving spouse and surviving children, the spouse receives one half of the estate and the children receive one half of the estate. If there is no spouse or children, the estate is directed to the surviving parent(s) of the decedent. Without a surviving spouse, children or parents, the estate passes to the heirs of the parents. Without living heirs, the estate passes to the state.

Distribution of your estate under intestate succession laws does not take into consideration those with whom you might not be in good favor, those who may have a greater or lesser need or your charitable interests.

When we visit with alumni and friends about creating a legacy gift to extend their support of Wichita State University, often our initial conversation has to do with the importance of basic estate planning.

We all work too hard to accumulate our estate to give up control of the distribution of these assets to the state. “Exercise your will” over your property by completing plans directing the distribution of your estate. And, while you are at it, include a gift to WSU to extend support of your favorite program.

This information should not be considered as legal or tax advice. Consult with your professional advisors regarding your specific situation.

Including WSU in your will
For more information about including WSU in your will, contact the WSU Foundation’s planned giving staff at (316) 978-3809 or go to

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