Missouri Probate Explained

If you recently experienced a death in the family, it is important to understand probate’s legal proceedings. Probate is a court process ensuring the payments of debts, asset collection, and asset distributions to heirs or beneficiaries upon a loved one’s death.  An estate is submitted to probate when a person dies with a will and dies intestate, without a will. If a will exists, it must be filed with the Probate Court within a year of your loved one’s death.

Do I need an Attorney?

Missouri law requires the hiring of attorney for probate court proceedings and to represent the Executor or Personal Representative. State law sets out how much payment the attorney receives, which is based on the value of the estate and costs.  Although state law governs the probate process, different counties have their own local court rules. Also, there are different fees and costs associated with probate such as filing fees, court costs and maybe publication costs.

Estate Values and Probate

The type of probate depends on the value of the estate minus the debts, and the type of property that is involved.  The Executor works with the attorney to provide a list of the assets and debts to determine what type of probate to file.  A small estate is a value of assets minus creditor debts that is less than $40,000. If an estate is less than $15,000 then notification does not need to be published.  If the estate is $15,000 and below $40,000, notice of the proceedings must be published. If the estate is $40,000 and above, it is not a small estate and must go through a full probate process.

Types of Property and Probate

Certain assets are also excluded from the probate process, including assets with joint ownership, community property with rights of survivorship, and policies with beneficiary designations.  Examples of policies excluded are life insurance and retirement benefits with named beneficiaries, and Payable on Death accounts. Living trusts also may not have to go through probate. It is best to work with a lawyer to determine if the property is included or excluded.

Independent and Supervised Probate

Independent administration means that the Judge does not need to approve the Personal Representative’s actions in paying debts, attorney fees and property distribution.  Often Independent administration is possible when there is no contest of the Will or Trust documents.

The Court may find it is necessary to supervise the estate administration, which means a longer time to close the estate and higher costs. Unless a will designates that a Personal Representative serve without bond, the Court requires that a Personal Representative qualify and pay for a surety bond.  Supervised administration requires formal proceedings. Supervised administration may occur when a Personal Representative is not able to post a court-ordered surety bond.

Informal and Formal Proceedings

A will may state a request for informal proceedings.  Informal proceedings mean that estate assets and debts are paid without court formalities and evidentiary hearing. Required documents still must be filed with the Court, regardless if the estate is small or $40,000 and above.  Formal proceedings are required when the will is contested, and beneficiaries fight over asset division. Formal proceedings for an estate without a will may require independent or supervised administration depending on the value of the estate and the determination by the Court.

Probate Help

For an attorney who understands the probate process and provides compassionate advocacy contact Tucker Legal Services, for an attorney to support and help you through the probate process in a time of grief.  The probate process can be time-consuming, which is why many people choose to avoid it entirely with a living trust. Learn more about this and other estate planning options by contacting Tucker Legal now.

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Tucker Legal Services LLC

When you choose Tucker Legal Services, LLC, you choose an experienced attorney and law firm that believes an estate plan is a life plan. The firm strives to build lifelong relationships with clients and help them adjust their plans as their needs change. The firm’s goal isn’t just to help you with an estate plan and send you on your way.

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