Skilled Probate Administration Lawyers in St. Louis Missouri

After a person has passed, their estates may go through the probate process. Because of the complex laws and procedural rules involved with probate matters in Missouri, it is a good idea to retain an experienced probate and estate administration attorney for help with navigating the process.

If your loved one has named you as the executor of his or her estate, or you have been appointed to serve as the estate administrator after your loved one has passed away without a will, contact Rogers Sevastianos & Bante, LLP. Getting experienced legal help from our St. Louis attorneys will make the process smoother and might help you avoid potentially costly errors down the road. Here is some information about probate administration and why it is important.

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What is Probate?

When a property owner passes away in Missouri, the decedent’s estate may need to go through the probate process so that the court can supervise the transfer of property from the state to the heirs. This process is typically required when a person who owns property passes away, depending on the types of property that he or she owns. Some examples of property that may need to go through probate include the following:

  • Bank accounts that do not have a named co-owner or a payable-on-death designation
  • Land and real property that is individually owned by the decedent
  • Land and real property that is owned as tenants in common with someone else
  • Stocks, bonds, ETFs, and other securities that are owned in the decedent’s name
  • Cars, trucks, boats, and other similar types of property that are in the decedent’s name alone and that do not have a transfer-on-death designation on the title
  • Other tangible items of personal property such as household furniture, jewelry, livestock, and others

Some types of property can be passed directly to the beneficiaries without having to go through the probate process. These types of property include the following:

  • Homes held in revocable trusts
  • Life insurance proceeds with named beneficiaries
  • Retirement accounts with named beneficiaries
  • Vehicles with transfer-on-death provisions
  • Homes held as joint tenants with a right of survivorship or as tenancy by the entirety
  • Bank accounts with payable-on-death designations

A probate case must be opened with the probate division of the circuit court within one year of the person’s death in Missouri.

Types of Probate Administration in Missouri

There are three different types of probate processes that you should know. The type of probate that your loved one’s estate might have to go through will depend on its size and whether your loved one requested an independent administration in his or her will. 

  • Small Estates – If the estate is valued at less than $40,000, a distributee can request a small estate certificate within 30 days of the decedent’s death. He or she must file an affidavit in which he or she promises to use the assets of the estate to pay any debts and to distribute the assets according to the will or the state’s intestacy laws.
  • Supervised Probate – This is a formal process through which an estate that is valued at $40,000 or more is closely monitored by the court. This process is very complex and requires annual settlement statements, inventories of assets, and other actions to be taken. 
  • Independent Administration – This is a less formal process that may be undertaken when a decedent requests this type of probate process in his or her will. 

Dying With a Will vs. Without a Will

When someone passes away with a will and with property, the executor who is named in the will must open a probate case in the court and file the will to be validated. The interested parties must be notified. People may object to the validity of the will, which is called a will contest. However, courts normally presume that wills are valid unless there is evidence of duress, coercion, a later will, incompetence, or other problems. 

After a will is validated, the executor will then be required to inventory the assets of the estate, notify the creditors, pay the debts out of the estate proceeds, pay taxes, and file annual statements with the court. The estate proceeds must be passed to the beneficiaries as designated in the will, but they will not receive the assets until after the estate’s debts, legal expenses, and taxes have been paid. 

When someone passes away without a will, they are said to have died intestate. The state’s intestacy laws will apply to the distribution of property. After a probate case is opened with the court, the court will appoint someone to serve as the estate’s administrator. He or she will then have to inventory the assets, notify the creditors and potential heirs, pay any debts, file statements with the court, and pay the taxes before distributing the proceeds to the heirs. Property in an intestate estate must be passed according to the intestacy laws.

How To Avoid Probate in Missouri

The probate process can be lengthy and costly. Fully supervised probate cases can be expected to last for months or years. People should try to avoid probate to protect their families before they pass away. Missouri offers several ways for you to avoid probate, including the following:

  • Creating a living trust and funding it with your assets
  • Naming the people who you want to receive your home as joint owners with rights of survivorship
  • Creating a transfer-on-death or beneficiary deed for your real property
  • Adding a payable-on-death designation for all of your bank accounts
  • Registering your stocks and bonds in transfer-on-death form
  • Adding transfer-on-death designations to all of the titles of your vehicles

The probate administration lawyers at Rogers Sevastianos & Bante, LLP can offer help in all matters of estate planning, including avoiding probate. 

1. Living Trust

One way to avoid probate is by creating a living trust. Living trusts are legal documents that are created during the grantors’ lifetimes. They establish a fiduciary relationship between the grantor, the trustee, and the beneficiaries. 

  • The grantor is the person who is creating the trust 
  • The trustee is the person who will administer the trust
  • The beneficiaries are the people who will receive benefits or assets from the trust. 

In many cases, the grantors will choose to serve as the trustees of their trusts while they are alive so that they can manage the trust assets on their own. If you choose to do this, you need to name a successor trustee who can take over after you pass away. You must transfer the property that you own to the trust to avoid the probate process. Your successor trustee will then be allowed to transfer the assets that are held in trust directly to your beneficiaries without going through the probate process. For help with this process, contact Rogers Sevastianos & Bante, LLP

2. Joint Ownership With Right of Survivorship

If the deed to your home or other real property has joint ownership with the right of survivorship, your real property will pass directly to the joint owner without having to go through probate. In addition to real property, other types of jointly owned will likewise pass directly to the joint owner, including vehicles, boats, stocks, bonds, and others. 

3. Payable-on-death and transfer-on-death designations

The state of Missouri also allows you to add payable-on-death designations to your bank accounts. If you own stocks and bonds, you can also register them in transfer-on-death form. 

Finally, if you do not want to add a joint owner to your home or vehicles but want them to avoid probate, you are allowed to change the deed or titles to include transfer-on-death designations. Adding these designations will not affect your property rights in the present, and the ownership interest of the beneficiaries will not go into effect until after your death. 

Get Help with Probate Administration in St. Louis

The probate process can be difficult, and it is a good idea for you to get experienced help from a probate and estate planning lawyer. Contact the attorneys at Rogers Sevastianos & Bante, LLP to schedule a consultation or call (314) 354-8484.


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