Probate FAQs

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Probate is a complex area of law.  There is no one, uniform solution as every situation is unique.  That said, below are frequently asked questions to help make our initial consultation more productive for you.

Please contact our office at 314-727-0163 to schedule a free initial consultation or schedule online.

The purpose of Probate Court is to transfer assets from the decedent’s name to the beneficiaries listed in that person’s Will, or if they had no Will to their legal heirs at law. When a person is living, if they want to transfer their bank account or car to someone, they simply write a check or sign a car title. After they pass away, they’re unable to do that, and the purpose of Probate Court is to legally convey title from the deceased person’s name to their beneficiaries or heirs.

If there were no beneficiaries (POD or TOD designations) listed on the property, yes, that asset will have to go through the Probate Court process to be distributed.

Yes. Assets in that relative’s individual name (with no beneficiary listed on the account) must go through Probate Court to be distributed. A Will does not change the necessity of Probate. Probate is the legal process that gives recognition to a Will, appoints a Personal Representative (Executor), and orders the distribution of a person’s assets according to that Will. The purpose of Probate is to formally pass title of assets from the deceased’s name to the beneficiaries listed in their Will.

On average, it takes between 7-14 months to finalize the Probate Process.

Yes, but that is dependent on the value of the assets needing to go through Probate Court. For example, if the total estate is under $40,000, there is an expedited “Small Estate” procedure for distribution of those assets that is much quicker than the full-blown probate process. There are also other short-cuts if the estate is much less than that. Our office will always explore these options to see if they apply to you.

No. Missouri law requires that you retain an attorney to open a Probate estate. However, Applications for a Refusal of Letters for a Spouse, for a Creditor, or for an Unmarried Minor Child can be filed without an attorney.

A Probate Estate will be opened in the state court located in the County where your deceased relative resided at the time of his or her death.

Any asset that is jointly owned with another individual, will usually go to the other co-owner. Any asset on which a beneficiary (POD or TOD) was designated will usually go to that designated person. All other assets that are titled in the deceased’s sole name will have to go through Probate Court and will then be distributed pursuant to Missouri statutes as follows:

1. If the decedent had a spouse but no children, the entire estate goes to the spouse.

2. If the decedent had a spouse and surviving children (who are all also the spouse’s children), the spouse gets $20,000 plus 50% of the estate. The surviving children or their descendants will equally divide the other 50%.

3. If the decedent had a spouse and surviving children (one or more who are not the spouse’s children), the spouse gets 50% of the estate and the surviving children or their descendants will equally divide the other 50%.

4. If the decedent didn’t have a spouse, but had children, the entire estate will be distributed to the children or their descendants.

5. If the decedent didn’t have a spouse, children or descendants, the entire estate will be distributed to the decedent’s father, mother, brothers and sister, or their descendants.

6. If the decedent didn’t have a surviving spouse, children, descendants, father, mother, brother, sister or their descendants, the entire estate will be distributed to the decedent’s grandfather, grandmother, uncles, aunts or their descendants.

A Probate Estate must be opened within one year of death. There are other Probate procedures that can be filed after that one-year time period, but note that a Will won’t be honored if it is not filed within that 1-year time period.

A Personal Representative, often referred to as an “Executor” is the person named in a decedent’s Will and who is appointed by the Court to be in charge of the decedent’s Probate estate, sign checks, gather property, and ultimately distribute those assets pursuant to the terms of a Will.

Your attorney will walk you through the process and explain the process to you as it may somewhat differ in every circumstances. In a nutshell the Probate process entails filing out application for probate, filing the Will and death certificate, getting the Personal Representative appointed by the Court, publishing notice to creditors, filing inventories and valuations of all of the assets, selling any property (if necessary), paying debts, claims and expenses of the decedent and the estate, and ultimately complying with the law and distributing the estate assets to the beneficiaries or heirs.

Probate Q&A
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