Probate & Estate Administration
Probate is a court-supervised process for distributing the individually owned assets of a deceased person.
If the decedent leaves a Will and owned assets in their individual name in excess of $40,000.00, the personal representative named in the Will is required to present the Will to the Probate Court for admission within one year of the date of the death of the Will Maker also known as Testator or Testatrix. Presentation of the Will to probate preserves the right of the Personal Representative to administer the decedents estate in accordance with the terms of the Will. If the Will is not presented within one year of the Will makers death, the Will can not be presented and any assets in the estate owned by the Will Maker individually must be administered as an Intestate Estate (not having a Will).
The Personal Representative will also present their Application for Letters Testamentary to the court. This application, once approved will result in issuance of Letter’s Testamentary by the probate court. The Letter’s give the Personal Representative power to administer assets owned by the estate. During the period of administration, the Personal Representative is required to maintain an accurate record of assets, income and disbursements and must account for them in either annual or final settlements or both depending on the length of the administration. Notification of administration of the probate estate must be published in a paper of record for four weeks to give creditors and interested parties time to make a claim against the estate.
If the Will provides for independent administration, the Personal Representative can receive and disburse funds and sell or dispose of property without court approval. Otherwise the Personal Representative must request court approval of most actions or get permission from the heirs of the estate or beneficiaries under the Will to administer the estate independently.
Within 30 days of issuance of Letters Testamentary, the Court will require the Personal Representative file an inventory of assets of the estate. This inventory may be extensive depending on the estate and may require amendment after initial filing.
Approximately 6 months after the first date notification is published, the Personal Representative will publish notice of their intent to close the estate. After publication the Personal Representative will file their final settlement and proposed distribution with the court.
If there are no objections, the court will close the case.
An intestate estate is similar in process, but distribution of assets and income is based on Missouri’s General Rules of Descent.
The probate process carries a lot of responsibilities. We can help guide your loved ones through the process as sensitively and completely as possible, and will make it as straightforward and efficient as possible.
NOTE: that this is an overview intended to give you an idea as to what may be involved in a simple probate.
A living trust is a legal document that, similar to a will, contains your instructions for administering assets and income held under the terms of the trust when you die. But, unlike a will, a living trust may allow transfers to beneficiaries that avoid probate at death, and better yet, can allow control of assets owned under the terms of the trust and prevent the court from controlling your assets if you become incapacitated.
Upon the death of a trust maker our law firm offers legal services to your successor trustee. The trustee is responsible for seeing that the assets of the trust are distributed properly and in a timely manner. An overview of the valuable guidance we provide includes:
Review of the trust document
Gathering of all trust assets
Explanation of trustee responsibilities
Notification of beneficiaries
Income Tax Analysis
Estate Tax Analysis
Collection of death benefits
Creation of sub-trusts
Dissolution of trust