The process of probate is necessary to manage and distribute an individual’s estate after their death. Many individuals use comprehensive estate planning to avoid long, costly, and stressful probate court. That way, their loved ones do not have to go through the process shortly after losing them. By working with an experienced Springfield estate planning attorney, you can create a strong and enforceable estate plan that protects you, your family, and your estate.
The purpose of probate is to transfer assets and settle the debts of a deceased individual who died with no will, or intestate, or who only had a will and no other estate plan. Although a will can list your wishes and other important information, it is still a public document that passes with your estate into probate court. Whether you are beginning your estate plan or are expecting to deal with the probate process, it’s important to understand probate court.
The Probate Process
The process of probate includes:
- The personal representative should find a probate attorney and then file a request with the court for their approval as the personal representative. If the personal representative is named the executor in the deceased’s will, the court will review the will to ensure that it is legally sound. If the deceased does not have a will, the court may appoint a personal representative.
- Then, the personal representative must provide notice to the heirs, beneficiaries, and creditors of the estate. When these individuals or parties are known, direct notice should be sent. To reach all unknown creditors and heirs, a notice of probate should be published in the paper. Creditors have six months to submit their claims to the estate.
- During this time, the representative should inventory and value all assets in the estate and then provide the court with the inventory list. The representative has a fiduciary duty to the estate and its contents, so they must keep the property and assets safe.
- Once creditor claims have been closed, the estate has been inventoried, and there are no other issues with the estate, the representative must pay valid creditor claims, along with estate taxes and expenses.
- The representative will then request court approval for the final distribution, distribute the remaining assets to their intended beneficiaries, and close the estate.
- Finally, the representative files a statement with the court showing the estate’s debts, how they were paid, and the distribution of assets, thus ensuring that the estate was properly closed.
When Does Your Estate Avoid Probate Court?
Probate only occurs when the assets in an individual’s estate have no owner upon their death, meaning that they pass into the legal ownership of the state. There are several ways to avoid this with a comprehensive estate plan. The most effective and commonly used method is trusts.
Both irrevocable and revocable trusts can be used to prevent assets from passing into state jurisdiction. The difference between these trusts is that an irrevocable trust is meant to be unchangeable or much more difficult to alter. An irrevocable trust also avoids debtor claims.
Trusts are legal entities, and the contents of the trust pass to the individual named as the successor trustee. When an individual creates a revocable trust, they still have complete control over the assets during their life. After their death, the trustee can manage the trust and distribute the assets according to the deceased’s wishes, much like a will.
There are many other potential methods of keeping assets out of probate court. These include:
- Accounts and policies with named beneficiaries
- Property owned through a joint tenancy by right of survivorship and other types of joint tilting
- Accounts designated to be Payable on Death or Transfer on Death
- Beneficiary bill of sale
Avoiding probate court can save your loved ones time and stress while also helping them obtain the most benefits from your estate. Depending on your estate size, probate can decrease its value through state and federal taxes as well as creditor claims. Although valid creditor claims must still be settled, an estate plan can provide more control over this process.
Q: What Is the Timeline for Probate in Missouri?
A: Once a personal representative for the deceased’s estate is approved, they must notify all known creditors and make a public notice for unknown creditors. In Missouri, these creditors then have six months to file their claims with the estate. Once this period of time has closed, the estate could be closed around 10 to 60 days later.
However, this process can be lengthened if not all estate matters have been settled. Beneficiary and heir disputes, other legal disputes, dealing with creditor claims, and a significant estate can all make the process take a year or longer.
Q: Do You Need a Lawyer for Probate in Missouri?
A: Yes, in Missouri, you are required by law to be represented by a probate attorney during the administration of an estate and certain other probate matters. This is true no matter the type of probate unless the estate is valued under a certain amount. While some aspects of probate, like applications, do not require an attorney, it is beneficial to work with one throughout the entire probate process. This will make it go more smoothly, prevent potential issues, and ensure that legal deadlines and requirements are met.
Q: Who Pays for Probate in Missouri?
A: The costs of probate typically fall to the estate. Depending on the size of the estate, court costs may vary, and state or federal taxes may apply. Missouri law also includes a required minimum compensation for the cost of an attorney and the commission that the personal representative of the estate receives. Furthermore, there is also the cost of publishing the notice to creditors. All these expenses can significantly impact the final value of an estate.
Q: What Is the Final Order of Distribution in Missouri?
A: The final order of distribution in Missouri refers to when an estate in probate can be closed by the executor of the estate. The executor must file with the court for the final distribution after creditor claims have closed, at which point the court will determine who receives portions of the estate through a will or intestate succession.
The decree of final distribution also determines what happens to assets when the beneficiary or heir dies. Once the executor has requested a final distribution decree, they must efficiently distribute assets to the beneficiaries.
Work With Stange Law Firm
If you need legal support for your estate plan, contact the professionals at Stange Law Firm.